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Liberal CNN anchor Don Lemon will soon leave primetime to co-host a new CNN morning show that replaces long-struggling “New Day.”
The Lemon move raised eyebrows as CNN is making a supposed shift to the center under new leadership, but is inserting a hard-left opinion host to help lead its latest morning reboot.
The “Don Lemon Tonight” namesake condemned former-President Trump so often that he once claimed it’s “not my intention to say bad things” about Trump in the middle of a rant against him.
Lemon was widely considered one of the personalities that pushed CNN to the left in the Trump era, shredding its reputation as a just-the-facts news organization in the process.
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Lemon created controversy well before Trump occupied the White House. He wondered aloud if missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared into a black hole, compared a real prisoner of war to a character from the fictional drama “Homeland,” and even told one of Bill Cosby’s rape accusers she could have escaped by simply “biting” the disgraced comedian’s penis. He also wrongly suggested in 2016 that a tape of Hillary Clinton laughing in the 1980s about an accused rapist she defended as a young attorney was inauthentic.
But most of Lemon’s noteworthy moments are overtly political, which made many media observers believe he could be shown the door alongside the likes of Brian Stelter, as CNN CEO Chris Licht attempts to make the network less liberal and polarizing. Instead, Lemon was pulled from primetime – he insisted it’s not a demotion – and will try to lift CNN’s morning time slot out of its decade-long ratings doldrums.
Here are some of his Lemon’s partisan moments:
Lemon compares Trump supporters to Ku Klux Klan members, Nazis
Last year, Lemon said Trump supporters were tarred by their association with objectionable people who backed his candidacy, including Ku Klux Klan members, during a conversation about the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
“If you are on that side, you need to think about the side you’re on,” Lemon said. “I am never on the side of the Klan. Principled people, conservative or liberal, never on the Klan side. Principled people, conservative or liberal, never on the Nazi side. Principled people who are conservative or liberal, never on the side that treats their fellow Americans as less than, that says your fellow Americans should not exist … that sides with slavery.”
Lemon then said, “If you voted for Trump, you voted for the person who the Klan supported. You voted for the person who Nazis support.”
Lemon defends Antifa
Lemon defended the radical far-left group Antifa on the heels of violent protests throughout the nation in 2018. The extremist group often engages in violence against those it deems far-right enemies.
“It says it right in the name: Antifa, anti-fascism, which was what they were there fighting,” Lemon said of one incident involving it and neo-Nazis. “Listen, no organization is perfect. There was some violence. No one condones violence… but there were different reasons for Antifa and for these neo-Nazis to be there. One, racists, fascists, the other group, fighting racist fascists. There is a distinction there.”
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Lemon erupted on unvaccinated people going to hospitals: ‘Don’t take up resources!’
Lemon fumed last year over people not vaccinated against coronavirus “taking up the space” in hospitals from vaccinated people who are “playing by the rules,” suggesting they should not go to the hospital if they get sick in the fall of 2021.
Lemon, responding to a story about a man whose cancer-stricken wife was released from the hospital early because of a lack of beds and died, predicted the future was going to be between the vaccinated and unvaccinated people across the country. He then blamed “selfish” unvaccinated people putting stress and strain on the system.
“If you’re not going to get vaccinated, you don’t want to social distance, you don’t want to wear a mask, then maybe you don’t want to go to the hospital when you get sick,” Lemon said, visibly frustrated. “I know that sounds harsh, but you’re taking up the space for people who are doing things the right way.”
Lemon claims to be independent while praising Democrats as only party ‘working on reality’
Last year, Lemon touted being an independent while continuing his nightly staunch defense of Democrats and bashing of Republicans.
“I don’t belong to a political party… I just don’t believe in voting because someone is a Republican or someone is a Democrat. I vote on what they have done, what they will do, what their records are, and what they stand for,” Lemon said.
“Having said that, there is one political party in this country that is working on reality, and that is the Democratic Party,” Lemon added, in an apparent contradiction to his claim that he didn’t pay attention to individuals’ political parties.
Lemon admitted that he thought Democrats weren’t “governing well at the moment,” but insisted they weren’t as damaged as the GOP.
“What is happening on the right is not politics as usual. And what’s happening on the right is not right, it’s wrong,” Lemon said.. “They should pay the consequences for what they’re doing to our democracy, the damage they’re doing to our democracy, and the damage they’re doing to this republic.”
Lemon then declared, “I hope the Republican Party can come back to some sort of semblance of a party that cares about actual democracy in people, but I don’t see that happening soon.”
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Lemon laughs at infamous ‘credulous rubes’ remark
CNN received intense backlash in 2020 when a panel on Lemon’s program mocked Trump supporters as “credulous boomer rubes.”
Rick Wilson, a co-founder of the disgraced Lincoln Project, mocked conservatives during a conversation about a heated exchange then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had with an NPR reporter, in which he allegedly challenged the journalist to point out Ukraine on a blank map.
“[Pompeo] also knows deep within 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,” Wilson began, causing Lemon to chuckle. “He knows that this is, you know, an administration defined by ignorance of the world. And so that’s partly him playing to the base and playing to their audience. You know, the credulous boomer rube demo that backs Donald Trump.”
As Lemon began crying with tears of laughter, Wilson went on to depict what he thought a typical Trump supporter sounded like.
“‘Donald Trump’s the smart one, and y’all elitists are dumb!'” Wilson said with a heavy southern accent.
“‘You elitists with your geography and your maps, and your spelling!'” far-left pundit Wajahat Ali chimed in during the mockery.
Lemon almost lost his breath from laughing, wiping tears from his eyes with a tissue.
“That was good,” Lemon reacted. “That was a good one. I needed that.”
Lemon says Obama ‘better looking,’ ‘smarter’ and has ‘more accomplished’ wife than Trump
In 2020, Lemon accused then-President Trump of letting former President Obama get under his skin because he is “better looking,” better educated” and has a “more accomplished” wife, in a segment that quickly went viral.
“What is it about President Obama that really gets under your skin? Is it because he’s smarter than you? Better educated? Made it on his own? Didn’t need daddy’s help? Wife is more accomplished? Better looking? I don’t know, what is it? What is it about him? That he’s a black man that’s accomplished being president? That he punked you on the whole birth certificate thing? What is it about him? Just wondering,” Lemon said slowly.
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Lemon invokes Hitler while discussing Trump, apologizes after backlash
Lemon compared Trump and Adolf Hitler in 2019 while arguing that such “bad people” shouldn’t be given a platform, but backed down after widespread backlash.
During their hand-off, Lemon’s ex-primetime colleague Chris Cuomo began by describing 2020 as the most “definitional” election in his lifetime. Lemon urged Cuomo, who has since been fired, to “think about the most despicable people in history” and warned him that he was going to use an “extreme example.”
“Think about Hitler. Think about any of those people… if you could look back in history, would you say, ‘Well, I’m so glad that person was allowed a platform so that they could spread their hate and propaganda and lies,’ or would you say, ‘That probably wasn’t the right thing to do to spread that because you knew in that moment that was a bad person, and they were doing bad things,” Lemon said.
Cuomo called the example “extreme” but Lemon initially doubled down.
“Listen, for people like me, how this president feels about the Central Park Five, that could be a life-or-death issue for people like me,” Lemon shot back. “He took a big part of their life away… and demonizing immigrants and talking about ‘sh**hole countries’ and saying that ‘there were very fine people on both sides.’ For people of color in this country, it is a life or death issue… so I’m just saying we just need to be careful about having ‘these are standard rules.’ This is not standard. This is not normal.”
After additional pushback from Cuomo, the soon-to-be CNN morning show host declared he wasn’t making an apples-to-apples comparison.
“I’m comparing the way you would cover someone who is a bad person who does bad things,” he said.
Lemon apologized later in the week after CNN came under fire for the comments.
“I didn’t mean to compare Hitler to the president, but it was inartful,” Lemon said.
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Lemon taunts Trump while touring new studio
When CNN moved to its new headquarters in New York City’s swanky Hudson Yards, Lemon showed off his new digs as he fawned over the elaborate space before taking a shot at Trump.
“The only person who could afford an apartment like this, maybe, well, it wouldn’t be Trump. It would be someone who’s actually a real billionaire,” Lemon said.
The swipe came a few days after The New York Times published a story about the Trump’s financial major losses in the 1980s and early 90s, calling him the “conman-in-chief” and a “fraud.”
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn, David Rutz and Brandon Gillespie contributed to this report.
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