Don Lemon’s Remarks About Trump Voters and The Klan and Nazis Are a Slap in the Face to 74 Million Americans
CNN anchor Don Lemon sparked intense reaction this week with remarks about people who voted for President Donald Trump in which he indicted them as “on the same side” as Nazis, the Klan, and violent insurrectionists. Those remarks are a slap in the face to the 74 million Americans who voted for Trump.
I don’t want to sugarcoat this, what Don Lemon said is extremely disturbing. Colleague Chris Cuomo was trying to argue — devil’s advocate-style — that not all Trump voters should be lumped in with the racist insurrectionists who attacked the Capitol last week.
“Now what you hear is, well, you can’t say that everybody who voted for Trump is like the people who went into the capitol. Response,” Cuomo said.
Lemon — who is openly Black — responded by telling Cuomo that “if you are on that side you need to think about the side you’re on. I’m never on the side of the Klan. I am never — 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 that your fellow Americans should not exist, that said your — that says your fellow Americans should be in a concentration camp or that sides with slavery or sides with any sort of bigotry,” he continued.
CUOMO: Right. And if they say I don’t agree with those people, I just like Trump’s policies.
LEMON: Well, then get out of the crowd with him. Get out of the crowd with him.
CUOMO: I wasn’t in the crowd. I just voted for Trump.
LEMON: You’re in the crowd who voted for Trump. If you voted for Trump you voted for the person who the Klan supported. You voted for the person who Nazis support. You voted for the person who the alt-right supports. That’s the crowd that you are in.
You voted for the person who incited a crowd to go into the capitol and potentially take the lives of lawmakers. Took the lives of police officers. Took the lives of innocent lives who were there on the capitol that day.
Predictably, many prominent media figures were HERE FOR IT, but not everyone. In fact, one reaction, from conservative radio host Erick Erickson, really made me think.
“I think Don Lemon should apologize. Telling 75 million Americans they’re on the same side as the Klan may get the left nodding, but further alienates 75 million Americans at a pretty critical time in American history,” Erickson wrote.
I think Don Lemon should apologize. Telling 75 million Americans they’re on the same side as the Klan may get the left nodding, but further alienates 75 million Americans at a pretty critical time in American history. The media is sowing more division.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) January 14, 2021
After snickering because Erickson snuck an extra MILLION votes in there for Trump, who lost the popular vote to President-elect Joe Biden by a count of 81,281,502 votes to 74,222,593 votes, I thought to myself “Should Don Lemon apologize?”
This led me to consider the reactions of others who were offended. I studied the most popular, or “top,” such reactions, and something stood out to me. Aside from Erickson’s, the most popular reaction was that of Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs — whom “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander has cited as an ally and a “hero” of the movement to overturn the election — who wrote, “This rhetoric will not bring more unity and healing to the nation, only division and discord.”
This rhetoric will not bring more unity and healing to the nation, only division and discord. https://t.co/tyRnzHNzDJ
— Rep Andy Biggs (@RepAndyBiggsAZ) January 14, 2021
Both of those reactions conspicuously failed to answer a key question in my mind: Where is the lie?
Lemon’s assessment was factually correct, these people did vote for a man who is an overt racist, who had already sided with Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville and actually campaigned on his support for the Confederacy, and who had been sowing the seeds of the Capitol insurrection for months before the election.
But that’s not the most important question in determining whether Lemon should apologize. Something can be true and still be messed up to say.
That’s the reason I mentioned that Don Lemon is openly Black because that fact adds to the sting of an already painful statement — pain that was evident not just in the response from these two prominent Republicans, but also in Cuomo’s devil’s advocacy, and in his attempt the following night to separate Trump voters from the Capitol insurrectionists.
It’s painful because as a Black man, Don Lemon’s words about racism carry extra weight, and it’s painful for people like Cuomo or Erickson or Biggs to hear a Black man indict people whom they wish to believe are decent. It’s a slap in the face to 74,222,593 Americans, there’s no other way to say it.
In Lemon’s case, it’s an easy answer: of course he should not apologize. All 74 million of those voters, and people like Cuomo who may count some of those 74 million as friends, should be thanking Don Lemon and asking for another. A slap in the face stings, but it can wake you up.
Cuomo is right, there are probably some Trump voters who cast their votes for “policy” reasons, who feel some sort of distaste for Trump’s racism and bigotry and misogyny and monstrous failures that have cost hundreds of thousands of lives and naked incitement of violence that has inspired multiple pipe bombings and mass shootings, and would like to continue thinking of themselves as decent people who just wanted tax cuts or unregulated cherry pies or a Supreme Court that would strip abortion and voting rights and protect the right of police to use deadly force with impunity.
And there are many in the media who would also be more comfortable continuing to view those people as decent because they have to sit next to them for panel segments and the like.
But they are not decent people. Leaving aside the indecency of their “policy” goals, they are, at best, willing to ignore a monstrous record of harm that is ongoing — in exchange for what? It hardly matters.
Now, maybe Don Lemon’s words won’t wake up many of those 74 million people. As Meghan McCain pointed out recently, even after the insurrection, Republicans still overwhelmingly support Trump, and most of them do so by not just denying Trump’s role in the attack, but by blaming Joe Biden for it!
But maybe Lemon will wake up people like the media personalities who say things like we should feel bad for Trump supporters because they’ve been lied to as if the professed belief in a fraudulent election conspiracy is genuine and not a pretext to fight to the death for their Dear White Supremacist Leader, or for the privileges of whiteness that he and his party protect.
Watch above via CNN.
Editor’s Note: The author’s use of the phrase “openly Black” was satirical. You can read a full explanation of the reference here.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.