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Longtime CNN host and Democratic Party mouthpiece Don Lemon has gotten the boot. The list of reported reasons, like Lemon’s career, is long and distinguished, ranging from anonymous threatening text messages to a female colleague to disturbingly hostile aggression toward women generally to divaesque tantrums and plain old bad ratings.
Among the vast and varied collection of causes for CNN to have unchained itself from this anchor, one raised conservative eyebrows. Reportedly “linked to” Lemon’s culling was his on-air tirade at conservative guest Vivek Ramaswamy.
A mainstream cable news host raining ridicule and contempt upon a conservative guest is hardly newsworthy. Similarly, Lemon’s pompous jackassery and general nastiness do not alone make for headlines. If I could write a comprehensive piece every time a left-wing mainstream media figure appears to identify as an over-inflated windbag, I would pray that Resist the Mainstream would agree to pay me by the word.
And that’s not even getting to the dishonesty.
No, all of the above could, sadly, be lumped into the category of “business as usual.” What makes this recent exchange worthy of note is that CNN disapproved of it, even to the extent that it reportedly factored into Lemon’s firing.
As for the incident itself, the full severity and variety of Lemon’s odiousness in this mere 12-minute interaction goes beyond that shown in abbreviated clips; in fact, some of the most egregious parts have so far been missed. For these reasons, a comprehensive break-down of the full-length encounter is provided here. Settle in and get comfortable.
Part I: The Warm-up Act — The Fox Settlement. This chapter of the encounter is less explosive, but Lemon exhibits traces of tendencies that would soon be on prominent display in their full, repugnant glory.
Ramaswamy’s appearance began with Lemon asking about Fox’s settlement of the Dominion Voting Systems defamation suit.
RAMASWAMY: “I think it’s happened to CNN and I think it’s happened to a lot of news networks. It’s the cost of doing business.”
He could not get these words out before he was interrupted by both Lemon and his co-host, Poppy Harlow. “That has not happened to CNN,” denied Harlow, flatly, as Lemon said, “It has not happened to CNN. This is the largest—”
Ramaswamy appeared surprised. “Never been sued for defamation? Never been — never been actually settled?”
Right off the bat, we have dishonesty and strawman tactics. CNN, of course, has been sued for defamation and settled, and it has done so recently and prominently. Lemon has here trotted out his first of what would eventually expand into an army of strawmen. Did Ramaswamy say anything about the size? No. Lemon simply interrupted to lie and then argue as if Ramaswamy had made a claim pertaining to size when he plainly had not.
“Yes, it’s definitely large,” answered Ramaswamy, honestly addressing his host’s new preferred topic.
What followed was a strained effort by Lemon to drag the discussion around to an overall condemnation of Fox as a source of news, even grandiloquently championing the Constitution and freedom of the press as he did so. Ramaswamy kept his upbeat and polite demeanor while not going along for the ride, but he did suggest that Lemon merely wanted him to bash Fox News.
“I’m not asking you to bash Fox News,” answered Lemon. “I’m asking you to be honest.” He then bashed Fox News and challenged Ramaswamy either to join him or to justify not doing so. “Are you concerned about the credibility? Are you gonna continue to go on that network even with those credibility issues?” Lemon concluded.
Ramaswamy did not evade the premise — nor did he accept it. “I have far more concerns with the credibility of what we will call the mainstream media than I do with the credibility of Fox News.”
Note the “what we will call,” as Ramaswamy deliberately avoided insulting the network hosting him. Ramaswamy resumed trying to move the discussion forward, eventually going so far as to call the focus on the settlement an “obsession” and “bizarre.”
LEMON: “This is a very important issue and it should not be downplayed. This has to do with American democracy and Americans learning the truth about what happened in the 2020 election. You don’t think that’s important?”
Of course, Ramaswamy did not discount the importance of any of those things; this was merely another Lemon trick. Lemon’s clumsy effort to pass CNN off as Fox’s moral superior was about to be exposed.
Lemon continued. “Your comparing it to CNN is not — it’s apples and oranges. It’s not the same thing.”
He is correct. And neither the apple nor the orange is the subject of laws written to protect Americans from products that repeatedly fail to meet standards of quality and performance; that would be the lemon.
Ramaswamy responded. “Well, it’s different networks, yes. Apples aren’t the same as oranges. You get one view through CNN; you get a different through Fox News.” He then spoke of the importance of free speech and said that efforts to silence dissenting speech are a genuine threat to our democracy.
Lemon concluded partly as follows: “I think the answer to what happened at Fox News is to tell the truth. Media companies are tasked with telling the truth.”
Lemon spoke these words on a network that helped censor and bury a true story of corruption and crime in order to change the outcome of that same 2020 presidential election and that helped push the “Russian collusion” story heading into the 2018 midterms. Ramaswamy had graciously avoided speaking ill of CNN throughout the encounter.
Part II: The Build Up. Poppy plants a pitfall; the scene is set for Lemon’s grand offensive.
A sedated-sounding Poppy Harlow, exercising oratory talents uniquely exorcised of all trace of charisma, referenced Ramaswamy’s campaign platform in asking what he would do to bring everyone together and “what unity look[s] like” to him.
“That is the right question to be asking,” Ramaswamy answered emphatically. One can wonder now if this response by the unflappably upbeat Republican added heat to Lemon’s simmering anger.
Ramaswamy said that the divide is between not Republicans and Democrats, but between those who are “pro-American” and embrace America’s founding ideals and an “increasing strain” that is “anti-American” and that he believes most Americans fall into the former camp and can be brought together.
Harlow then played a clip of Ramaswamy speaking at the recent NRA leadership conference. Here is what he said in the clip:
I want you to raise your hand if you know when the first anti-gun laws were passed in this country. Raise your hand if you do. Eighteen sixty-five. You want to know when it happened? We fought a Civil War in this country to give black Americans the equal protection under the law that we failed to secure them in 1776.
But then you want to know what happened? Southern states passed anti-gun laws that stopped black people from owning guns. The Democrat Party then, as in now, wanted to put them back in chains.
Ah, clever! The seemingly somnambulant Harlow had asked Ramaswamy about “unity” so that, after he answered, she could embarrass him by dropping this clip of the presidential hopeful saying that Democrats want to put black Americans “back in chains.” Maybe she didn’t get the name “Poppy” for the reason I suspected.
Ramaswamy’s phrasing referred, of course, to famed champion of unity Joe Biden’s bellowing of those very words to a group of black voters on the 2012 campaign trail (though as a Democrat, Biden had to do without the “then, as in now” part, of course). Vivek and Poppy went back and forth for some time about the Civil War and Lyndon Johnson and their impacts on the freedoms and well-being of black Americans and were about to move on to discussing China when Don Lemon jumped in.
Part III: The Main Event. Behold, a Lemon-scented avalanche of arrogance in all its awful glory.
LEMON: “I don’t really see what one has to do with the other, especially consider — and using the Civil War to talk about black Americans. That war was not fought for black people to have guns. That’s not—”
Right off the bat, note Lemon’s disingenuousness. Ramaswamy never, ever, made the ridiculous claim that the Civil War was fought for black people to have guns. He didn’t say that here, and he didn’t say it at the NRA forum. (Also, “using the Civil War to talk about black Americans?” What?)
Lemon’s statement is an obvious misrepresentation of Ramaswamy’s words; it also is a weak and clumsy one.
Ramaswamy was on top of it, though.
RAMASWAMY: “That war was fought for black people to have freedoms in this country, actually.”
RAMASWAMY: “That’s why the Civil War was fought.”
RAMASWAMY: “And the sad part about it—”
LEMON: “But that wasn’t fought for black people to have guns. I think—”
Lemon could let only seconds go by before again trotting forth his same weak, dishonest strawman. Rather than get mired in swatting down an endless march of strawmen, Ramaswamy moved forward into his next point.
RAMASWAMY: “Actually, you want to know a funny fact is, black people did not get to enjoy the other freedoms until their Second Amendment rights were secured. And I think that that’s one of the lessons that we learned—”
Foreshadowing: note what Ramaswamy actually said, as opposed to what he did not say. I will here tie together some sentences that overlapped for the sake of readability. Others I will not for the same reason and because of words potentially lost to cross-talk.
LEMON: “Black people still aren’t allowed to enjoy the freedoms of—”
RAMASWAMY: “I disagree with you on that, Don.”
Oh my. Shots fired.
LEMON: “—in this country.”
The audacity! Ramaswamy just defended America, challenging Lemon’s assertion that America denies black citizens the freedoms granted other Americans. Batten the hatches. Clearly, now, there will be fireworks. And then … Ramaswamy said even more.
RAMASWAMY: “I disagree with you on it. I think you’re doing a disservice to our country by failing to recognize the fact that we have the equality—”
LEMON: “Well, ok. When you are in black skin and you live in this country, then you can disagree with me. But we’re not — you mentioned that we have three different shades of melanin here—”
That didn’t take long. Lemon handled this affront with his trademark grace — he bluntly played his race card, asserting his racial privilege to silence Ramaswamy. It’s as if Lemon truly does believe that some American freedoms are to be enjoyed only by those possessing a privileged skin color.
But Ramaswamy again would not submit to Lemon’s denial of his freedom to speak a nonconforming belief while of the wrong race. Maybe Lemon’s well-worn race card is past its prime.
RAMASWAMY: “Don, I think we have to be able to talk about these issues in the open regardless of the color of our skin. Black Americans today — to say that — to compare that to 1865 and 1964 absolutely—”
LEMON: “I think for you to compare it to 1865 and 1964 is actually—”
RAMASWAMY: “—have equal rights in this country.”
LEMON: “I think it’s actually—”
Harlow gamely tried to intercede but to no avail. Maybe she’s lost a step. And if Lemon has struck you as someone who would react with placid restraint to back talk from an inferior, well, then you have not yet been privy to the national treasure that is Don Lemon.
Lemon stepped it up a notch.
LEMON: “I think it’s insulting to black people. It’s insulting to me as an African-American. I don’t want to sit here and argue with you because it’s infuriating for you to put that — to put those things together. It’s not right. Your telling of history is wrong. Your — what your thinking—”
Did you catch that? Insulting to black people. Comparing the present day to different historical times is … insulting to Lemon as an African-American. If Ramaswamy didn’t detect the threat already, Lemon was going to make sure that he couldn’t fail to see it: infuriating.
All told, Lemon had just dropped the modern equivalent of the “don’t-you-know-who-I-AM?” gauntlet.
Ramaswamy would back down now … surely?
RAMASWAMY: “What part of the history was wrong, Don?”
RAMASWAMY: “What part of the history was wrong?”
LEMON: “—that the Civil War was fought — you’re making people think that the Civil War was fought for black people — only for black people to get guns and for black people to have rights—”
Seeing Ramaswamy surprisingly undaunted by Lemon’s assertion of his racial privilege and higher status, and even heavily implied threats, Lemon again summoned his ridiculous strawman army. Credit where it is due: “you’re making people think” is a bit better than outright lying about what Ramaswamy said, and with Lemon one must grade on a curve. On the negative side, Lemon added an “only.” That is the essence of his pathetic strawman argument that Ramaswamy is claiming the Civil War was fought only to give black people guns.
RAMASWAMY: “The Civil War was fought for black people in this country to get freedoms, a noble mission. And I think that—”
LEMON: “Yes, you’re right. But it wasn’t—”
RAMASWAMY: “—even after — even after we succeeded, we had to actually secure those freedoms.”
LEMON: “—to reduce it — to reduce it in a speech at the NRA, to say you’re making people think — you’re trying to say that black people to get guns, that was the reason that you’re there at the NRA — that was the reason for the Civil War, I think that’s reductive—”
This, here, is a beautiful display of the dishonesty and entitlement of Don Lemon. What Lemon did here was yet again trot out his silly, simplistic strawman in place of Ramaswamy’s actual words and then — drumroll — accuse Ramaswamy of being reductive. Based on the simplicity of Lemon’s strawman. We are here witnessing a master at work.
RAMASWAMY: “It is a fact. It’s not reductive, Don. It insult—”
LEMON: “And I think it’s insulting. There were a whole plethora of reasons that — for the Civil War including—”
The straw army heretofore had stood guard; now, however, it was on the march.
RAMASWAMY: “Look, with due respect, I find your explanation reductive and actually insulting, including to black Americans, to say that black people today compared to 1964, 1865, haven’t made progress in part because of the freedoms we secured. And the Second Amendment part—”
First: “With due respect,” Ramaswamy said. I doubt it is possible for Ramaswamy to address Lemon with all of the respect that Lemon believes himself due.
Second: In real time, Ramaswamy correctly countered regarding just who is being reductive.
Third: He dared turn Lemon’s “insulting to black people” right back around on Lemon himself.
LEMON: “Black people — hang on, please, I cannot keep a thought if you guys are talking to me in my ear.”
Oh, it’s getting uglier. At this point in the clip, Lemon is now snapping at his producers.
LEMON: “So I — hang on one second. So, to say that black people — say what you said again?”
RAMASWAMY: “Black people secured their freedoms after the Civil War is a historical fact, Don, just study it, only after their Second Amendment rights were secured—”
Oddly, whenever Ramaswamy spoke on the very point Lemon tried constantly to home in on, Lemon interrupted him.
LEMON: (Inaudible) “people have — they were not secured their freedoms after the Civil War, that is not — you are discounting — reconstructing and discounting a whole host of things that happened after the Civil War when it comes to African-Americans, including the whole reason that the Civil Rights Movement happened, is because black people did not secure their freedoms after the Civil War, and that things turned around — people tried to change the freedoms that were supposed to happen after the Civil War and Reconstruction.”
Ok, let’s leave aside what a jumble this is. In fairness to Lemon, we all look worse on a transcript than when we write, although even without anyone in his ear, Lemon was struggling to construct, let alone reconstruct, a thought. And, of course, the Civil Rights Movement did, in fact, take place after the Civil War.
Examining Lemon’s larger reasoning, however, we find that he is yet again crafting a strawman. Ramaswamy has repeatedly claimed that black Americans acquired their other freedoms only after getting their Second Amendment freedoms. Whatever one thinks of this argument — it has strengths and weaknesses — that is his argument. That. Not some other dumb argument that Lemon made up. Lemon here has committed a basic logical error: he is confusing a necessary condition with a sufficient condition. Imagine saying, “I can’t bake lemon and poppy seed muffins without a lemon and some poppy seeds,” just for some buffoon to shout, “that’s a lie! You also need flour and butter and an oven to make lemon and poppy seed muffins!” Saying something is necessary is not the same as saying that it alone can produce the result. Lemon’s reasoning is half-baked. He should know better.
We’ll skip ahead just a bit, as it is about to get uglier and even more dishonest.
RAMASWAMY: “The part that I find insulting is when you say today black Americans don’t have those rights, after we have gone through Civil Rights revolutions in this country—”
LEMON: “The fact that I find—”
LEMON: “—you are sitting here telling an African-American about the rights and what you find insulting about the — the way I live — the skin I live in every day and I know the freedoms—”
Lemon just constructed the colossus of all strawmen. Because Ramaswamy has continued speaking, because he has not submitted to Lemon, Lemon is now claiming that Ramaswamy has said that the way Lemon lives and the skin Lemon lives in every day Ramaswamy finds “insulting.”
Take a moment and stop to ponder the extent of this dishonesty and the extent to which Lemon will go, what he is willing to do to get what he wants.
I always thought that the term “race card” implied the presence of a full deck containing other, non-race cards of which the race card is just one. Here, though, Lemon is not playing, and he has thrown the entire race deck at his guest.
So, readers, what’s the next step? Big bonus points to anyone who said, “attack Ramaswamy’s race!” The other side of the coin of racial privilege and superiority is the denigration of the race of one’s inferiors. Lemon was about to get very ugly.
Here’s what Lemon soon would say.
LEMON: “But I think it’s insulting that you’re sitting here, whatever-ethnicity-you-are-splaining to me about what it’s like to be black in America. I’m sorry.”
First, when a man like Lemon says “I’m sorry,” few things in life are more certain than that he is not, in fact, sorry.
Lemon’s hyphenated phrase is a variant of “mansplaining” or “whitesplaining.” Its point is that those of a given gender or race are forbidden from expressing opinions on a given matter to people of a different given gender or race whose experience is deemed to intersect more intimately with the matter at hand.
Lemon’s variant here is an impressive racial twofer. “Whatever-ethnicity-you-are” is a clear expression of Lemon’s disdain for Ramaswamy’s race. Attaching it to “splaining” is a reminder of Lemon’s higher-status race and the privilege it entails: that on these matters, a person of Ramaswamy’s race simply may not speak to a person of Lemon’s race.
If Ramaswamy were willing to submit to a reduced set of freedoms afforded one of a lower caste within a racial hierarchy, his parents probably would not have been the type to immigrate across the world from India to the United States of America. He did not cower before Lemon’s assault on his race and freedoms.
RAMASWAMY: “Whatever ethnicity I am. I’ll tell you what I am, I’m an Indian American. I’m proud of it. But I think we should have this debate, black, white, it doesn’t matter—”
LEMON: “I think we should have this debate, but I think if you want to do it—”
RAMASWAMY: “—n the content of the ideas.”
LEMON: “—you should do it in an honest way, and in a fair way. And what you’re doing is not an honest and fair way. OK? But we appreciate you coming on. Thank you for that.”
Ah, yes. Lemon had mounted his high horse and begun lecturing Ramaswamy on honesty and fairness. He likely believed he was passing it off, too. And then Ramaswamy was dismissed from Lemon’s presence. Lemon did not indicate if Ramaswamy was expected to back from the room, his head lowered.
Lemon then shook Ramaswamy’s hand, to his credit, but he was not done. He turned away from Ramaswamy, looking disgusted.
Co-host Poppy Harlow — who had been studiously working on her notes for quite some time now — began to provide a graceful conclusion and outro to the segment. She spoke of talking about China during a later visit. Ramaswamy, his cheerful demeanor intact, cooperated with her effort to guide the encounter to a conclusion.
HARLOW: “We’ll talk about China.”
RAMASWAMY: “Yes, let’s … talk about China.”
HARLOW: “—next time you come back.”
RAMASWAMY: “Oh, thank you. Much to say on declaring independence from China.”
Ramaswamy appeared to recognize that the panel was wrapping up and cast a few friendly or acknowledging glances at Lemon, but Lemon — who had turned and remained not facing Ramaswamy — got in one more comment. I have listened to it repeatedly, and it certainly is not a question despite appearing as such on CNN’s transcript. I believe I have it correctly. As Harlow and Ramaswamy were wrapping up, Lemon interjected with his parting shot.
LEMON: “Ok, you can move on now, please, thank you.”
Ramaswamy actually laughed at Lemon’s small piece of parting bullying.
Final Analysis; Aftermath.
Lemon’s hypocrisy and sanctimony and various other repellant traits and behaviors were covered above. Lemon was fired. He then released a statement on Twitter in an oddly large and lavender type in which he criticized CNN for its lack of “decency” in not speaking with him directly; CNN responded by asserting that Lemon’s assertion was “inaccurate.” So, more of the same from Lemon, it would appear, though some gray area exists around the term “directly.”
As for Ramaswamy’s performance in the encounter, it has been complimented above. As for shortcomings, were his arguments perfect? Perhaps not. He may have overstated his case. For example, in another point in his NRA speech, he said that the NRA should provide guns and training to the citizens of Taiwan and that doing so would halt China’s plans to invade the island nation.
He has a point — as he noted, the US has been sending guns to Ukraine, where citizens have been training in their use and fighting Russian forces in the streets. The notion, however, that the Chinese Communist Party — which cares quite little about its own 1.412 billion people, let alone Taiwan’s 23.57 million — would say, “Hey, we were about to invade Taiwan! But now its civilian population has been converted into a paramilitary light infantry force. So, that does it. We’ve been planning this for decades, but it’s over now” is pretty farfetched.
But such points were for Lemon to make, and he did not make them. As for Ramaswamy’s decency and performance in the debate itself, he was excellent.
As a presidential candidate, Ramaswamy naturally has taken a victory lap, and Lemon’s toppling is certainly something for which the candidate has cleared a welcoming spot in his trophy case. He also magnanimously invited fellow presidential hopeful and Indian American Nikki Haley to join in the victory celebration, as she was the initial target of the then-recently-late-of-prime-time host’s recent shots at women for being “past their prime.”
One can speculate about how Lemon’s firing came about, and many are. The suggestion at least merits mentioning, in fairness, that CNN and new CEO Chris Licht may be charting a new course. Lemon and his prima donna antics caused all sorts of mayhem and ruffled feathers within CNN even in the very recent past, however, so we shouldn’t get carried away hoping for a truly reformed CNN. But still, credit where credit is due — it is CNN that fired Lemon.
A unique perspective for contemplating what about the times may be a-changin’ arises, perhaps, from recalling Bill Maher’s words last year about the five “Grand Marshals” of New York City’s “Pride March.” Four of the five were transgender. “That’s where we are now,” the comedian said. “Gay men aren’t hip enough for the gay pride parade.” The nine-minute segment is cutting (in the nonsurgical sense) and hilarious. And Maher, of course, is no Jerry Falwell.
Don Lemon has, throughout his career, been buttressed and shielded by those twin elite status pillars, “gay” and “black.” While many factors likely played into his dismissal, the move gave leftists a chance to take women’s side for once, and one can wonder if Lemon’s rainbow shield lost some of its luster and we are witnessing a changing of the guard.
CNN has not named a replacement for Lemon. I do hear, however, that Dylan Mulvaney is available.
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