Don Lemon Compares Himself to James Baldwin and Malcolm X


One of the ways Don Lemon attempts to justify regularly going on television and embarrassing both himself and the concept of intelligence, is by essentially shrugging his shoulders and grumbling, “I’m just asking.”

He doesn’t necessarily believe that a woman should prevent her own rape, but couldn’t she maybe prevent her own rape if she just tried a little? I’m just asking.

Don Lemon just wants to know what will happen if he voluntarily rides around Manhattan in a BlizzardMobile like some sort of vigilante snowman.

Guys, all Don Lemon is saying is that MAYBE there’s a reason why it would be justifiable to slam a teenage girl onto the ground. I’m just asking.

This transparent technique, coupled with zero subtly and sparse actual facts is the foundation on which Don Lemon has built his career. In “Don Lemon Doesn’t Get Offended,” the CNN anchor spoke with The New York Times Magazine and more or less expressed pride in these exact characteristics.

Famously, you once asked a panel on CNN about the possibility of a black hole swallowing up MH370. What do you think happened to the plane?
That was a viewer question, from social media, and it was part of a segment on preposterous conspiracy theories.

Obviously the first question a sane person would ask is, why, in the midst of an ongoing story about a major tragedy would a news network do an entire segment about a bunch of ridiculous theories we all know good and goddamn well are not true? How is that in any way helpful, interesting or responsible? In what way does that honor the victims or lead us closer to the full story of what happened?

It you’re Don Lemon, however, it’s totally cool because, like, blindly reading shit from Twitter means that you don’t have to take any responsibility for your own stupid questions.

You have a track record of upsetting people on the left. What would you say was the worst episode?
I don’t know. No one asks Jake Tapper or Wolf Blitzer to be the spokesperson for any particular group. I’m not an advocate or an activist. I’m a journalist.

The difference, Don, is that Jake Tapper and Wolf Blitzer do not run around saying things that are actively harmful to vulnerable communities. And the suggestion that he’s held to a wildly different journalistic standard because he’s black is an insult to both black viewers and his own skills as a journalist.

Further, it’s a stretch that we all even agree to call Don Lemon a journalist. Journalists anchoring national news programs aren’t supposed to ask questions on air just because they’re curious. They ask questions to get to the bottom of a truth and that line of questioning should necessarily result in some revelation about a truth. Wondering why women don’t just fight off their rapists is not a fact or insight.

Can you think of a time that you’ve been offended or hurt and then learned from it? Nothing I can think of specifically, no.
It doesn’t seem to me that you get offended very much. I don’t. Instead of being offended or defensive or whatever, I try to be curious about why that person feels that way, why someone has that particular opinion. I understand people being offended and hurt, but as a journalist, I gotta move beyond that. I can’t do that.

Taking pride in never being offended by anything makes him sound like a sociopath. Never getting offended about anything signals a stunt in someone’s intellectual and emotional growth. What I think he means is that he doesn’t get offended over someone simply expressing a conflicting ideology, but that explanation would require some nuance and depth of thought.

What I think he’s doing is trying to conflate being offended over inconsequential slights like a Christ-less Starbucks coffee cup with, say, being offended by comparing a black person using a reclaimed slur amongst themselves to the Confederate flag.

The twisted painful beauty of Don Lemon is just when you think he can’t sink any lower, that he cannot possibly be any more preposterous or more of a parody of himself, he finds a way.

Do you have any idea what you would be doing if you weren’t a journalist? I’d probably be a writer like James Baldwin. Or I would probably be an activist. But not like Dr. King, even though I admire him. I’d probably be more of a Malcolm X. I believe the best way to improve yourself is to improve yourself.

I want us to be very clear on what Don Lemon just did here. The man compared himself to three of the most important black thinkers—nay, three of the most important black people ever.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, arguably the greatest civl rights leader ever, ain’t exactly his cup of tea. Lemon doesn’t seem to have much of a clue about what exactly Malcolm X believed because he sure as shit wasn’t suggesting that respectability politics will keep black people from being discriminated against.

For some reason I find the James Baldwin comparison the most delusional. Fools compare themselves and others Martin Luther King and Malcolm X all the time largely because they are default examples of activists. But James Baldwin? One of the greatest people to write words in the history of humans writing down words? Nah.

I never knew James Baldwin, but I have read his work and I possess common sense. For those reasons, I feel comfortable saying that no, Don Lemon, you couldn’t even hope to possibly one day dream of briefly embodying a glimpse of talent that would justify even a passing James Baldwin comparison. And if he were alive today, the man himself would probably run as far away from you as possible. Lord knows that those of us still alive are trying to.

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Image via Charley Gallay/Getty.

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