Don Lemon claimed he was tired of people flashing “white power signs” at him while hosting a New Year’s countdown on CNN.
“I’m tired of people fighting,” Lemon told co-host Brooke Baldwin on Wednesday. “I’m tired of walking through the crowd and people giving me white power signs. It’s disgusting. Stop it, America. That’s not what we’re about.”
The two CNN news anchors rang in the New Year in Nashville, TN, and expressed a desire to see positive change for America in the upcoming year.
“I just want us to come back together again as a country,” Lemon said. “I want us to stop being so sensitive. I want to get rid of the stupid racist and homophobes and bigots. I’m sick of that. I’m sick of promoting that and hearing about it. It’s disgusting.”
Baldwin, for her part, said she wanted to “lift women’s voices” in 2020.
Lemon, who appeared to be nursing glasses of champagne during the event, was in good spirits, as noted by several users on social media.
“Did drunk Don Lemon get a real tattoo?” tweeted one commenter.
Other Twitter users claimed to have spotted the “white power” signs Lemon referenced during the countdown.
— Erica (@fucking__yikes) January 1, 2020
Commenters also took aim at the city of Nashville.
“Not surprised some jack wagon flashed Don Lemon the white power sign. Nashville is a white trash town; Gatlinburg TN is even worse. Been to both – confederate flags abound,” one user tweeted.
And others blamed supporters of President Donald Trump.
@donlemon Thank you Don't Lemon for being in Nashville tonight. Apparently you ran into some ignorant people showing White Power signs in the crowd. Ignore them. You're a great guy and always welcomed here. Sadly ignorant adults are past their fixin point lol
— Darren J Wilmoth (@darrenjwilmoth) January 1, 2020
“All these trump supporting white people trying to gaslight about the #whitepower sign that @donlemon faced last night. My husband stopped the show and rewound because he saw it immediately. I’m sure there were more,” said one commenter.
The “Ok sign” debate
A contentious debate has emerged over whether those who use the hand signal are doing so to announce their support for white supremacy or whether they’re doing it because they know it angers liberals.
Complicating the matter is a hoax campaign launched by users of the controversial imageboard site 4chan in 2017 to troll leftists by popularizing the association of the gesture with the white power movement.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, white nationalists’ adoption of the signal preceded 4chan’s hoax. The SPLC cited the use of the gesture by alt-right figures, such as Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos, prior to 2017.
At a time when many on the left see signs of Trump-fueled white supremacy everywhere, OK-hand-symbol hysteria has become routine.
In mid-December, a media firestorm broke out over the alleged “white power” symbols thrown up by West Point cadets and Annapolis midshipmen at an Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.
Separate investigations conducted by the the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Military Academy at West Point later determined the military students did not make “white power” hand signs and were instead making gestures associated with the “circle game.”
A similar controversy occurred in May when a Chicago Cubs fan displayed an OK sign during an NBC Sports broadcast at Wrigley Field. Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney called the action “ignorant and repulsive,” and the organization indefinitely banned the fan from the ballpark.
In October, Universal Studios Resort fired an actor dressed as a “Despicable Me” character after the person was accused of using the symbol in a photo with a young fan.