exits

Did Focus On The Family Force James Dobson to Get Out of There?

Just because James Dobson left Focus on the Family, the hate group he founded decades ago, doesn’t make us believe the organization will suddenly start supporting the gays. But reports that he was forcibly ousted from his position — as chairman of the board in November, and last month as radio host — has us wondering what the future of FOTF really looks like.

In interviews, James Dobson always seemed a bit guarded about his exit from FOTF. Something about wanting to carry on his mission in a new entity, while possible, didn’t entirely make sense; why give up the 1.5 million radio listeners to go grassroots? But as TPM notes, the separation of the leader from his flock wasn’t exactly his call.

In little-noticed comments from the November show, Dobson seemed troubled by the board’s decision to ask him to give up the program.

“[T]the board of directors voted privately on Wednesday — before we got there — to ask for my resignation, although their request was made with kindness and respect. We can only guess the reason for their decision because frankly I don’t fully know,” Dobson said. “But it apparently has to do with the desire for closure on my tenure and the beginning of another.”

(The original source of the “Dobson was forced out” storyline appears to begin with the Rev. Kenneth Hutcherson, of Washington State’s Antioch Bible Church, who published a column in World Net Daily about how FOTF president Jim Daly wanted the group to start skewing younger, something Dobson wasn’t fit to do.)

But Dobson continued dressing up the situation as a voluntary, planned arrangement. Yet we found the most telling words about Dobson’s departure coming from his own son Ryan, with whom James will be running his new radio show Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson. Says Ryan in an interview published last month: “I think it started about eight years ago, trying to plan for the point where he’s not going to do it at all. And if he’d just left all of a sudden, abruptly, you kind of leave them in the lurch. So it started with him stepping down from his presidency, and then Don Hodel, former Secretary of the Interior, took over for a little while. Then Jim Daly was hired on and has been there ever since. So [the elder Dobson] stepped down from the board and then he stepped away from Focus, but he’s still not done. He still wants to do some more things. But for Focus, the growing pains kind of were getting to where, Jim’s president, they’ve got things they want to do and directions they want to go, and you know, it was just time to go, time to move on and do something else.”

Asked if the plan was to have James hand over the reigns to Ryan, Ryan responds: “Absolutely not.”

So while there may not have been a highly visible succession plan for FOTF post-Dobson (that is, the group won’t have as public a face as Dobson), there was an exit strategy: FOTF gave Dobson a cool $1 million to start his new hate project.