The Los Angeles Times published Wednesday a roughly 1,600 love letter hailing CNN Tonight host and liberal pundit Don Lemon, reveling his near-constant presence on the Jeffrey Zucker-led network amid nationwide unrest and racial tensions.
Reporter Stephen Battaglio hailed Lemon’s rise, painting him as a truth-teller and a key voice in shepherding Americans to think more critically about race and politics. Of course, there was no mention of his far-left views, comments defending looting and rioting, and disdain for people who have different views. Instead, it was a pity party, fretting that he’s faced “vitriol.”
The table was set right from the headline of what kind of story this would be: “As a nation looks for answers on George Floyd, CNN’s Don Lemon steps up.”
Battaglio began with how Lemon was telling him about how his mother had been especially worried about him when she just happened to call. And once Don answered, Battaglio had her speak to about how she’s “very proud” of her son, “concerned for his safety,” and dismayed at “how people attack him.”
Battaglio added that his mom “has seen the vicious comments written about her son online since he became more outspoken on his nightly program” with “the vitriol [having] intensified after Lemon called President Trump a racist in response to comments he made regarding immigration in January 2018.”
That’s all well and good. Truly. There were few bonds greater and stronger than a child and their mother. That said, it’s something to see Lemon be painted as under attack considering his ugly, venomous declarations about people who think differently than him.
Over the years, he’s called Trump supporters “worse than” racists, questioned their intelligence, suggested female Trump voters benefit from “white supremacy,” and the kind of people who “steal,” “cheat,” and “lie to their mother.”
So much for compassion and truth-telling. But to the Times, Lemon does just that, spewing hate about millions of Americans.
The love continued as Battaglio boasted that Lemon “is clearly energized by having a role in shaping the current national discourse on race relations” with the CNN host himself saying that he’s “found my voice and found my groove” because it’s “my time to be me on TV.”
Of course, there were references to his May 30 meltdown (not May 31), but not his defense of looting and rioting (which was preceded by a mealy-mouthed, throwaway condemnation) as a “mechanism” to remake America and create change
There was also nothing about his claim on June 1 that America was “teetering on a dictatorship” with a President who’s “declared war on Americans” (click “expand”):
Lemon said he tries to challenge his audience to think about the causes of racism. He created a viral-video moment when he said it was not up to Black people to solve the problem.
As the protests heightened on the night of May 31, he asked for Hollywood celebrities of all races to publicly offer their support. (“Where are you? Why aren’t you fighting for these young people? If you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it?”) He raised the point after remembering how performers such as Lena Horne, Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte were out front and center during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
(A few days later Lemon would thank Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who issued a video online expressing support for the Black Lives Matters movement and asked President Trump, “Where is our compassionate leader?”)
NBC’s “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon recently sought Lemon’s advice after photos of him wearing blackface in a 20 year-old “Saturday Night Live” sketch surfaced online. Lemon then appeared as a guest on “Tonight” after Fallon gave a lengthy, somber opening monologue to express his regret.
Battaglio did offer words of criticism, noting that he was part of CNN’s “saturation coverage of the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, which drew strong ratings but was widely ridiculed by media critics” as well as talking about the smell of marijuana in Ferguson.
But it was quickly back to more gushing thanks to Zucker and producer-director Lee Daniels, who called Lemon “a truth-teller.” Battaglio had more praise of his own, hailing his opening commentaries (click “expand”):
CNN President Jeff Zucker believes Lemon’s maturation as a broadcaster has neatly coincided with the crisis facing the country right now.
“I think he knows how important this moment is — he’s been preparing for it his entire career,” Zucker said. “Don has always brought a little of himself and his emotion to his reporting and that’s why he’s stood out. On this story, he’s done it in an insightful and measured way that I don’t know the Don Lemon of six years ago would have done.”
Lemon has long had a strong following among African American viewers. Producer-director Lee Daniels once had Lemon appear as himself in “Empire,” his hit Fox TV series about a Black musical family dynasty.
“I put him in a party scene because I really thought he was the voice of our people then,” Daniels said. “I think he still is. He’s a truth teller. He doesn’t waver.”
Daniels texts Lemon while he is on the air, offering opinions on his tie or suit and watches for a reaction. “I enjoy watching him smile as he delivers the news,” he said.
On CNN, he has defined himself with an opening segment labeled “Don’s Take,” which he writes with the help of his staff. “It’s what I think America needs to hear at the moment,” he said. He presents it in a conversational style with dramatic pauses. He often adds riffs that are not in the script. He also ends most of them with the phrase “and those are the facts.”
“And those are the facts?” Does Lemon have any evidence for the claims he’s made (listed above) about Trump supporters? Does he have any evidence that Antifa is better than neo-Nazis? Does he have any evidence that journalists “apologize” when they’re wrong?
And how can Lemon (or anyone else) suggest he’s a serious news host when one of his more trusted and revered guests was Dan Rather?
Spoiler alert: The answer was no, just like his lies on May 30 that the President didn’t address the country on George Floyd’s murder.
As this thread showed, Lemon’s anything but a civil, thoughtful news personality.
But if you’d listen to the CNN Media Team, he’s a journalist whereas Fox News Channel hosts are pundits.