In 2014, I became familiar with the career of one Mr. Don Lemon, a young, charismatic news anchor over at CNN. I say “news anchor” because that’s what they call him. I assume the more accurate title of “Shameless Propagator of Tabloid Drivel Making A Mockery of Journalism” wouldn’t fit on the business cards.
Yeah, I’m not a fan.
In fact I went so far as to dub Lemon “one of the most destructive forces in culture.” A harsh accusation, but I’d argue not an unfair one. And so I try to keep tabs on the guy, hoping against hope that a Google search of his name will not result in some fresh wave of misinformation, Islamophobia, and general fearmongering nonsense. So is this our lucky year?
I’m afraid not.
Here’s what the country’s lousiest news anchor has been up to since we last checked in:
Asking A Muslim Lawyer If He “Supports ISIS”
By Muslim lawyer, I mean Arsalan Iftikhar, esteemed human rights lawyer, adjunct professor at DuPaul, and internationally recognized author and intellectual. And no, Lemon did not ask Iftikhar that question to establish for the audience that Muslims don’t automatically support terror. You can see the pained shock on Iftikhar’s face and the obliviousness on Lemon’s. And to be clear here, Lemon’s exact words were:
“Do you support ISIS?”
That was it.
No set-up, no context, no follow-up. Just an insulting question that was (if intentional) designed to rile up Iftikhar or (if unintentional) so blithely dumb that it could have come from-
-well, the likes of Don Lemon.
That said, baiting Muslim guests for for ratings is par for the course where Lemon is concerned, but the blatancy here seems just plain painful. I shouldn’t have to explain that one might ask with equal legitimacy if Don Lemon supports the Crips on the basis of his race, or if he supports the LRA on the basis of his religion.
But asking for a bit of incisiveness from news anchors is clearly demanding too much.
Getting His *** Handed To Him By David Clarke
In the wake of the killings of five police officers in Dallas this year, Lemon met with Baton Rouge sheriff David Clarke. Clarke immediately launched into a tirade against Black Lives Matter, accusing the group of fostering violently anti-police rhetoric that led to these shootings.
Does Lemon call out Clarke on his leaps in logic or the fundamental holes in his premise? Not at all. Lemon almost immediately cuts to commercial after losing control of the interview and proceeds to stare at Clarke like a deer in the headlights when Clarke finally begins to engage. Why? Because this never was (in spite of Lemon’s protests) a conversation. This was supposed to be a carefully scripted headline-of-the-day, meticulously planned to serve as an echo chamber of broad public sentiment not a challenge to it.
Now in Lemon’s defense, he does, after a vicious stomping by Clarke, try to defend himself by arguing that as a journalist his role is to report, not to condemn or commend. And that’s an interesting argument to have: do anchors simply disclose facts, or do they have an obligation to defend them? Regardless, for Lemon it doesn’t seem to matter. For all his self-righteous indignation, it’s not two weeks later that he’s-
Patronizing Sanders Supporters
So much for journalistic neutrality.
In an analysis of the DNC, Lemon (Mr. “My job is just to report”) launches into a tirade of his own, demanding that the understandably angered Sanders supporters “have some dignity” and suggesting (using examples waaaaay to specific to not have actually happened) that they had no right to protest at all.
Now you might be saying- “But there’s a world of difference between Don Lemon the anchor and Don Lemon the analyst. As an anchor with CNN he’s on TV discussing current events. That’s when he has to be unbiased. As an analyst with CNN he’s on TV discussing current events. That’s when he can express personal opinion.
Though when I say it out loud it does kinda seem like bull****.”
But not even Lemon’s personal brand of bull**** is consistent.
Suddenly Reversing On Racial Issues
In the past I’ve chewed Lemon out for his history of denigrated the issues faced by the black community- even going so far as to suggest that an actual solution to black issues was “pulling up their pants” and to “stop littering.”
Lemon defended such blatantly racist practices as New York’s “Stop-and-Frisk” program, practically declaring the inherent bigotry as a necessary evil in the interest of safety.
Now the past months seem to show Lemon doing something of a 180 on his old positions. Lemon now admits that the simple of the matter is that black folks can be respectful and compliant and still get needlessly gunned down by law enforcement.
And I’m OK with that.
I want to make it clear here that I am not taking issue with Lemon for leaving behind the absurdity of “respectability politics.” That’s not what bothers me.
It’s that I don’t believe him.
It would seem from Lemon’s statement that he has been a long-time subscriber to this belief. Lemon speaks eloquently on this issue (hey, credit where credit is due). What I’d like to know is where this passion and eloquence was when Lemon was blaming “hip-hop and rap culture” for the struggles of the black community. Hell, where was this passion and eloquence when he was responding to David Clarke? Oh wait, he’s not supposed to have an opinion then. Except for when he does. Because Lemon is right back to baiting Professor Melina Abdullah (a major BLM member) with snide and patronizing questions like “Does it sound like a job in policing is beneath [emphasis added] who is […] in the movement?”
So yeah, forgive me if I still don’t trust a word of what Lemon says.
Now you might think I’m railin’ on the guy just to rail on him. I assure you, that’s not the case. Nothing would make me happier than for Lemon to have the scales drop from his eyes and for him to see the error of his ways. For him to use his position and voice to speak out on behalf of what’s right and true.
But I’m worried that’s not going to happen. And I can’t speak for you but as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather not wait to find out. I don’t want to have to put up with years, decades, of Lemon’s shock-jockey tabloid-journalism. I think it’s unfair to the folks who could be making a difference. I think it’s unfair to the public.
Sure, we don’t always ask for more. The great majority of us demand stories that thrill us, chills, assure us that everything is going to be OK if we just make it through the commercials. Maybe we really and truly don’t deserve a better degree of journalist than Lemon.
I’m going to keep on asking. I hope you will too.