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CNN Is a Disgrace, and Don Lemon Is a Huge Problem

Perfect.  It was perfect.  What Don Lemon, one of the most unscrupulous actors posing as a journalist on television today, did to a black minister live on television last week stands as the perfect depiction of why people hate the media, why the president’s punches against them always land so forcefully, and why his employer CNN is cratering to what seems like unsustainably low ratings.

It was also perfect that not long before, CNN’s resident “senior media reporter” Oliver Darcy had criticized Fox News’ resident loudmouth Tomi Lahren for “reprehensible commentary.”  I’ve never been one to defend Tomi’s cartoonish performances, but to borrow from Jesus, Darcy might want to first concentrate on removing the gigantic plank in his network’s own eye before concentrating on Fox’s speck.

If you haven’t heard about Lemon’s historically disgraceful ambush, you need to.  Because, particularly coming on the heels of his absurd, “What do you say to those Trump voters who prioritize the economy over the president’s bigotry” debate question, it represents all that is bad in journalism today.

Under the guise of being sincerely interested in the Coalition of African American pastors meeting with President Trump to discuss efforts to aid so-called communities of color, Don Lemon walked the group’s founder into a left-wing ambush.  The only thing Lemon cared about was getting Pastor Bill Owens to criticize Donald Trump and call him a racist.

It wasn’t an effort to report the news, to analyze an event, or to provide viewers with a deeper understanding of what is affecting their world.  It was a naked attempt to inflame racial tensions, and if the minister didn’t play along, to embarrass and humiliate him.

As any man of God would, Owens stayed true to his purpose and refused to take the bait.  As he tried to discuss the problems facing minority citizens, Lemon persistently cut him off repeatedly begging the question in deplorable and disgraceful ways:

“What did the president say about his attacks on these leaders of color, and did any of these pastors raise concerns about that?”

“What did the president say about his attacks on leaders of color?”

“Did anybody raise concerns about what he’s been saying lately about people like Elijah Cummings or anyone?”

“Any concern that the president used this meeting with black leaders to insulate himself from that criticism?”

“I know it’s hard for you, you think it’s hard to believe that Trump is racist. But he’s repeatedly used racially charged language. He consistently attacks black and brown elected leaders. So, why is that hard to believe? Pastor?”

Those were the questions asked.  The minister was there to talk about his discussion with the president about how to help black people in America, but it is apparent that isn’t Don Lemon’s concern.  He wants to call the president a racist, so he begs the question over and over again.  And when Owens doesn’t jump into the fray, Lemon doesn’t cut the interview; he attacks his guest by misrepresenting him:

“You’ve said some controversial things before. In 2012, you equated President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage to supporting child molestation. You later walked that back. But that in itself is an outrageous statement — why should anyone take you seriously?”

Disgusting.  First, if Lemon didn’t take Owens seriously, why have him on the program to begin with?  Second, this is a complete misrepresentation of what Owens actually said.  After Owens emphatically rejected Lemon’s characterization, Lemon pulls out the transcript that he just happened to have sitting right there on his desk.  Tell me, if the CNN host was truly interested in hearing about the meeting with President Trump – the context in which Owens was invited onto the program – why would he have come to the conversation with this transcript? 

And as several others have pointed out, CNN was prepared to immediately change their on-screen chyron from noting Owens as one of several “faith leaders” who met with Trump to noting Owens as a “controversial African American pastor.” 

When this “controversial pastor” tried one last time to redirect the conversation back to improving the lives of black communities by referencing his consistent willingness to work with anyone of any color to help young black youth, Lemon responded with one final insult:

“I appreciate you giving me your biography, [but] what does that have to do with the president?”

About as much as you have to with journalism, Mr. Lemon. 

This is the type of hackery that, when it is allowed to fester without correction and apology, degrades the reputation of journalism and journalists.  CNN’S corporate unwillingness to deal with their Lemon problem demonstrate that falling ratings aren’t their biggest issue.  Integrity is.

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