Don Lemon is the host of a prime-time program on CNN. And, in a way, Mr. Lemon represents the new CNN brand better than any of his network’s counterparts. Unlike Chris Cuomo, Anderson Cooper or Jake Tapper, Mr. Lemon has held nothing back in his outspoken animosity toward President Trump and the tens of millions of Americans who voted for him and still support him.
In January, Mr. Lemon famously opened his program saying, “This is ‘CNN Tonight,’ I’m Don Lemon. The president of the United States is racist.” And then he told us what he really thought.
He has used his platform for blistering monologues and biased panel discussions that often conclude with Mr. Lemon chastising or even yelling at one of his guests who attempt to speak on behalf of Mr. Trump or his supporters.
In August he took dead aim not at Mr. Trump, but at everyday Americans who dare to not hate their president. “We’re up against tribalism. We’re up against people who will lie, steal, and cheat, lie to their mother, lie to themselves about what’s right of this country,” he said to Mr. Cuomo during one of their excruciating exchanges from the latter’s show to the former’s.
“Those people” who Mr. Lemon is referring to are not elected officials or paid spokesmen. They are you and me and your parents and anyone else who favors the president and his policies.
Last month when Kanye West showed support for Mr. Trump by visiting the Oval Office and praising the president, Mr. Lemon called the scene a “minstrel show” and suggested that his support of Mr. Trump stems from ignorance and mental health issues. He allowed his guest to call him a “token Negro.”
And just this week, Mr. Lemon opined that, “We have to stop demonizing people and realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men, most of them radicalized to the right.
“We have to start doing something about them,” he said. “There is no travel ban on them. There is no white guy ban. So what do we do about that?”
Imagine if a Fox News host used his prime time platform to call former President Barack Obama a racist and black men “the biggest terror threat” in America. Imagine still if he went on to say that “we have to start doing something” about the black men in question.
How loud would the calls for this host’s firing be? How big would the organized advertiser boycott be? How long would he stay on the air?
The closest thing one can muster in comparison to Mr. Lemon’s outrageous behavior is former Fox News host Glenn Beck’s musings that Mr. Obama had a problem with white people and white culture.
“This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture,” Mr. Beck said during the famous 2009 Henry Louis Gates affair when Mr. Obama chided the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police for “acting stupidly” when they detained the professor when he attempted to break into his own home.
“I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people,” Mr. Beck said. “I’m saying he has a problem. He has a — this guy is, I believe, a racist.”
The outcry about Mr. Beck’s statement (which was not a produced, written segment loaded into his teleprompter like Mr. Lemon’s monologues, but an impromptu answer to a question on “Fox & Friends”) was sudden and it was strong. Eventually, Mr. Beck and Fox parted ways.
Compare that to Mr. Lemon’s ongoing behavior toward Mr. Trump, white people and black people who refuse to agree with him politically. There is barely a “harrumph” from the same Greek Chorus regularly lined up to excoriate a talk-show host or conservative columnist for the slightest utterance not deemed politically correct.
In fact, many of the main players in the outrage commentariat are CNN hosts who inexplicably seem to spend more time talking about their competitor two channels over than they do reporting the news. But no one has a thing to say about Mr. Lemon, because he is just doing his job and serving his audience.
You see, if you support Mr. Trump, his show is completely unwatchable. And that’s the point.
CNN has clearly decided that they don’t want Trump supporters watching. They believe they’re doing just fine without you, thank you very much. But if a network’s entire brand is defined by being anti-Trump, what exactly are you once he is no longer president? Most of us will never know because we will have already made a habit out of not watching.
• Larry O’Connor writes about politics and the media for The Washington Times and can be heard weekday afternoons on WMAL radio in Washington. Follow Larry on Twitter @LarryOConnor.
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