Three liberal commentators erupted in laughter on a CNN panel Saturday as they mocked supporters of President Donald Trump as illiterate rednecks who are ignorant of the world.
“CNN Tonight” anchor Don Lemon was speaking to New York Times op-ed contributor Wajahat Ali and former GOP consultant Rick Wilson during what was supposed to be a news segment. The men, all outspoken Trump critics, were discussing a recent spat between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and an NPR reporter whom he suggested could not find Ukraine on a map.
“Obviously it’s false” Wilson said of Pompeo’s claim. “He also knows deep in his heart that Donald Trump couldn’t find Ukraine on a map if you had the letter ‘U’ and a picture of an actual physical crane next to it. He knows that this is an administration defined by ignorance of the world.”
Wilson went on to ridicule Trump’s “base,” whom he described as gullible aging rednecks and then parodied in a southern-accented impression.
“That’s partly him playing to their base and playing to their audience,” Wilson said, as Lemon doubled over in laughter. “You know, the credulous boomer rube demo that backs Donald Trump, that wants to think that Donald Trump’s the smart one and y’all elitists are dumb.”
“I needed that”
“You elitists with your geography and your maps and your spelling,” Ali chimed in, trying to affect a similar accent.
“Your math, your reading,” Wilson added, prompting Lemon to take out a tissue to wipe aways tears of joy.
“Yeah, your reading, your geography, knowing other countries, sipping your latte,” Ali repeated.
“All those lines on the map!” Wilson said, rocking back and forth in hysterics.
“Only them elitists know where Ukraine is,” Ali continued.
“Sorry, I apologize,” Ali said, smiling. “It was Rick’s fault. I blame Rick.”
“Blame Rick, why not?” Wilson said.
Lemon, gasping for air, finally tried to regain control of the panel.
“That was good. Sorry. Rick, that was a good one. I needed that,” he said. “So, OK, listen, let’s get back to business here.”
CNN video mocking Trump supporters goes viral
The segment apparently went largely unnoticed by CNN’s audience. But on Monday, clips began making the rounds on social media, where they have been viewed millions of times.
Conservatives slammed the exchange as an example of smug elitism at its worst.
The Daily Wire’s Jessica Fletcher called it a “MUST WATCH clip.”
“[Don Lemon] and his guests trash conservatives as illiterate hillbillies who can’t figure out a map,” she said. “Never forget, THIS is what the liberal ‘elites’ think of you.”
Trump himself tweeted a version of the video late Monday night, saying, “Don Lemon, the dumbest man on television (with terrible ratings!).”
“In 2016, we were called “deplorables,” said Students for Trump. “In 2020, we’re considered “hillbilly illiterates.”
“We’ll see who has the last laugh come election night this November,” the account warned.
In 2016, we were called “deplorables.”
In 2020, we’re considered “hillbilly illiterates.”
We’ll see who has the last laugh come election night this November. pic.twitter.com/M7VmRKpswY
— Students For Trump (@TrumpStudents) January 28, 2020
Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign manager, tweeted, “Deplorables. This Deplorable is ready,” followed by a flexed biceps emoji.
“You deserve to be mocked for it”
In the face of the backlash, Lemon was silent. But Wilson and Ali were defiant.
Wilson implied in a series of tweets that Trump had been foolish to share the video and accused the president of calling out Lemon rather than him, “Because he’s afraid of me.”
Ali said his friends were “concerned about my safety” after Trump retweeted the clip. But he said he would not be “intimidated & bullied” and was “Not going to apologize” for choosing to “trash Trump supporters as ignorant rubes.”
“If you’re willing to believe and promote these absurd and dangerous lies, well, you deserve to be mocked for it,” he said.
Pluralist requested comment from CNN about the segment and its policies on separating news from opinion, and from both the network and The New York Times about their standards for contributors’ behavior. Neither outlet immediately responded.