CNN anchor Don Lemon on Tuesday tried to minimize his role in a segment during which he laughed hysterically at a series of jokes made by his guests at the expense of Trump supporters.
The exchange, which happened during a panel discussion Saturday on “CNN Tonight,” went viral this week, earning condemnation from President Donald Trump, his children and many other conservatives.
Both of the guests, New York Times op-ed contributor Wajahat Ali and former GOP consultant Rick Wilson, remained defiant in the face of the backlash.
Lemon, meanwhile, had stayed silent until Tuesday night. In the final 40 seconds of his nightly news show, he launched into what initially sounded like an apology.
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“And one final note that I have for you because this is personally important to me to address this, OK?” he said. “Anyone, ask anyone who knows me, they’ll tell you, I don’t believe in belittling people, belittling anyone for who they are, what they believe or where they’re from.”
After that, though, Lemon pivoted to making vague and implausible excuses about his behavior during the inflammatory segment.
“During an interview on Saturday night, one of my guests said something that made me laugh, and while in the moment I found that joke humorous. And I didn’t catch everything that was said,” he said. “Just to make this perfectly clear, I was laughing at the joke and not at any group of people.”
This is a MUST WATCH clip. @donlemon and his guests trash conservatives as illiterate hillbillies who can't figure out a map.
Never forget, THIS is what the liberal "elites" think of you. pic.twitter.com/dN6wu4eEIg
— Jessica Fletcher (@heckyessica) January 28, 2020
The problem with the Don Lemon apology video
Lemon did not specify on Tuesday which of the jokes he had laughed at, and neither CNN or The New York Times responded to Pluralist’s requests for comment.
However, conservative Twitter users — including many who had already criticized the panel discussion— rejected Lemon’s explanation. Many outright called him a liar.
Blogger Steven Miller dismissed the anchor’s backpedaling as “hilarious bullsh–.” Like a number of commentators, he charged that Lemon “threw Wilson under the bus” by claiming not to have heard him.
“I, too, laugh hardest at the jokes I don’t hear,” quipped writer Kate Hyde.
“[T]his is far and away the least believable justification for wrongdoing I have ever heard and I’m a mother of young children,” said Mollie Hemingway, an editor at The Federalist.
“I needed that”
Lemon first burst into laughter Saturday when Wilson joked that Trump could not could not find Ukraine on a map “if you had the letter ‘U’ and a picture of an actual physical crane next to it.”
However, in seemingly contradiction of his remarks Tuesday, Lemon continued laughing when his guests turned to mocking the president’s supporters as stupid and illiterate rednecks and parodied them with southern-accented impressions. That part of the segment went on for nearly a minute of the 1:16 clip.
“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.”
“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.”
Don Lemon: “I don’t believe in belittling people – anyone!”
– that’s why you laughed until you cried on national television after your guest made us out to be “rubes” and “hillbillies” pic.twitter.com/mBsg4aaXOR
— Students For Trump (@TrumpStudents) January 29, 2020
Lemon, Wilson and Ali are all prominent Trump critics.
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