WATCH: Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo Crack Up as Lemon Comes Out as ‘Openly Black’ Live On the Air


CNN anchors Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo cracked up laughing at Lemon’s somberly-delivered live on-air confession confession that he is “openly Black.”

During the bumper segment between Friday’s editions of Cuomo Primetime and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, Lemon told Cuomo “I have a confession.”

“It’s just between us. Go on,” Cuomo reassured him.

“I am Black,” Lemon replied, deadpan.

“Openly?” Cuomo queried.

“Openly Black,” Lemon said.

“Wow. I don’t know what to say,” Cuomo joked, and the pair then laughed through an explanation of the bit — which was prompted by a Mediaite column I had written earlier in the day entitled “Don Lemon’s Remarks About Trump Voters and The Klan and Nazis Are a Slap in the Face to 74 Million Americans.” A column, by the way, that Lemon described as “brilliant.”

The first part of column was written in the satirical voice of someone criticizing Lemon for his remarks, only to later flip around in support of Lemon. And in that column, I referred to Mr. Lemon as “openly Black,” a joke that I’ve used many times before as a way to mock white reactionaries who treat other people’s immutable identities as though they were deliberate attempts to offend, and to cut through the thin subtexts they often use.

Ironically, I was inspired to use the bit by a conservative website that would incessantly I.D. media figures like Don Lemon as “openly gay” in a derogatory manner, but I can’t claim credit for the premise. Stephen Colbert also used it as part of his Colbert Report character’s absurd lexicon of phrases, and as I was reminded when the joke blew up on social media yesterday, the legendary George Carlin riffed on the phrase as well.

That tweet from Roy Wood, Jr. of The Daily Show was part of a minor social media uproar that ensued as the quote got passed around social media without the necessary 1158 words of context, and I learned that this joke hit folks quite a bit differently when embedded in a deadpan parody.

But here’s another good lesson about what a white reactionary might call “cancel culture.” Hours after I posted the commentary, and Lemon tweeted it to his 1.3 million followers, and I was done with my shift and was out with my family, people started blowing up my phone asking if I wanted to “explain” what I thought was an obvious joke, and after (I later learned) some reporter reached out to my website for comment, I didn’t start cycling through the “tWiTtEr mObZ ArE CaNcElInG MeEeE!” playbook.

A few folks asked me in good faith to explain it, so I did, but I don’t fault anyone for taking offense, it was supposed to sound absurd and reactionary. Some people read it through to the end and got the joke, others read the whole thing and still didn’t appreciate it. Totally legitimate. One aspect of social media feedback is that it’s self-selective, making it difficult to quantify the prevalence of any given reaction in real life, and in this case, lots of people were reacting to a screen shot with no context.

However, the joke did act as a roadblock for people whose digestion of my point I would rather have not had interfered with, and as I was writing it, I almost abandoned it because I thought it would make the satire too obvious and spoil the twist. It turns out the opposite was true for many.

The point was to pull the reader in with an apparent slam on Lemon’s commentary, then use that energy to highlight the power of it. His remarks were a slap in the face that ought to wake people up.

And I don’t just mean people like the white reactionaries who accused him of being “divisive,” but the “objective” media types who constantly make excuses for the 74 million people who explicitly voted for racism and violence, who say they were tricked or frustrated or economically anxious or persuaded by “policy” instead of just calling them out and letting them become better people if they want to.

Watch the clip above via CNN.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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