CNN was so sick of Lou Dobbs, it gave him an $8 million severance package to leave, The Post has learned.
"They wanted him out," according to a source.
Dobbs, who a source said had a year and a half to go on his $12 million contract, shocked viewers last Wednesday by announcing he was quitting.
CNN boss Jonathan Klein and Dobbs, 64, had been publicly feuding over the kind of reporting Dobbs was doing on his show -- especially stories about illegal immigration and the anti-Obama "birther" movement, which contends the president was not born in Hawaii and is not an American citizen.
LOU DOBBS "Liberating moment."
But it was not clear until now that CNN was willing to pay Dobbs so much money to leave.
"What they do is their business," Dobbs said yesterday. "I tried to accommodate them as best I could, but I've said for many years now that neutrality is not part of my being."
Klein long believed Dobbs was at odds with CNN's desire to position itself as an opinion-free, middle-of-the-road alternative to its cable news rivals -- conservative Fox News and liberal MSNBC.
Dobbs characterized his split with CNN after 27 years as "pleasant, friendly and professional" in an interview with the Atlanta Constitution-Journal.
But, he added, "I truly believe that it's also a liberating moment for me."
Dobbs said he is free to take a new job at another network, but said it would be "weeks, probably months" before he decides what to do next.
The end came quickly once the exit package had been negotiated, said Robert Dilenschneider, a spokesman for the anchorman.
Originally, plans had been for Dobbs to announce his decision to leave during last Friday night's broadcast.
"But when his assistant asked, 'Lou, do you really want to leave on Friday the 13th?' he decided to make it Wednesday instead," Dilenschneider said.
Dobbs is set to give his first TV interview since then to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly tonight, leading to speculation that he may be headed there. But TV insiders said such a move is highly unlikely.
Talk about a possible political career -- possibly as candidate for the Senate from New Jersey in 2012 -- is also probably overblown, friends said.
"He couldn't stand the scrutiny," said one colleague.