CNN anchor Don Lemon was demonized on social media for a Nov. 5 commentary that seemed supportive of New York’s racially discriminatory “stop-and-frisk” policy. But on Nov. 6 he told Richard Prince’s Journal-isms that his remarks were "grossly misinterpreted" and declared, “I am not supporting stop-and-frisk.”
Lemon’s controversial remarks were made during his segment on the Nov. 5 edition of the “Tom Joyner Morning Show,” the very day New York voters were determining their new mayor. One of the key choices voters faced at the ballot box was whether their new chief should continue outgoing mayor Michael’s Bloomberg’s “stop-and-frisk” law enforcement policy.
Lemon’s take was that “if you question many people in New York City, even some Black and Hispanic people, they will tell you that on the surface they don’t really have an issue with stop-question-and-frisk. Not the idea of it, at least.”
And they feel that way despite knowing that police officers “will most likely not be that polite,” and will be discriminatory, Lemon continued.
The news anchor theorized about what would happen if Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio changed Bloomberg’s law enforcement formula and crime went up.
“If he alters the equation of the formula that has reduced crime in New York City to its lowest in decades, one of which is stop-question-and-frisk, and the crime rate creeps back up, beyond local citizens moving away to the suburbs, people will stop visiting, stop spending their tourist dollars,” Lemon said.
“[Tourism is] a big driver to the city’s economy, the city will suffer international consequences, cities and municipalities around the country will follow suit; looking at the Big Apple as an example of what to do or not to do,” he continued. “So whatever the mayor here decides will be reflected in your city, reflected in your crime rate, and in your economy.”
Lemon concluded, “So the question is: would you rather be politically correct or safe and alive?”
The closing sentence acted as a spark on dry kindling, igniting a firestorm of vitriol against the Black journalist.
On Twitter, the CNN anchor earned his own hashtag.
"#DonLemon On Don Lemon: Would you rather be acceptable to whites and get paid to hate yourself or be liked by the coloreds and get nothing?" read one tweet.
"Don Lemon on Slavery: would you rather be free and unemployed or have a home and a job?" read another.
“Hey has #donlemon signed his FOX contract yet?” another angry user posted.
On Facebook, the outcry continued unabated.
“What a horrible false choice. Don your voice in media represents a grave disservice to black people,” wrote one user.
“Jezuz H. Christ, Don. What planet are you on?” questioned another.
"And if Lemonhead has to play both Black people and himself in the process, hey, that's just how you fake your way to the top,” another commented.
Lemon has made similarly divisive statements before, including his support of Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly’s assertion that, "The reason there is so much violence and chaos in the Black precincts is the disintegration of the African-American family.”
Several websites and individuals questioned the Lemon’s authenticity given his 2001 lawsuit against Tower Records for racial profiling. In speaking to Journal-ism’s Lemon said the suit did not make him a hypocrite because "99 percent of what I wrote is against stop-and-frisk. It's a shame that people are taking it that way."
Lemon also said the last statement of his commentary, about the choice between being “politically correct or safe and alive” was meant to provoke thought among the radio show’s listeners and was not an endorsement of New York’s policy.
"I'm trying to make you think. What happens when people's rights are violated? Are you going to decide based on political correctness?" he said.