CNN anchor Don Lemon called President Donald Trump “publicly racist” Monday night in a nine-minute diatribe on “CNN Tonight.” Lemon was responding to comments the president made Friday on Twitter, in which he called Lemon the “dumbest man on television.” Trump said Lemon made LeBron James, whom the anchor had interviewed about James’ public school for at-risk kids, “look smart, which isn’t easy to do.” During the interview with Lemon, James commented that Trump was using sports to divide the country.
Trump ended the tweet with “I like Mike!”—a reference to the famously apolitical basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan. (A spokesperson for Jordan told NBC News Saturday that Jordan supports James, saying, “He’s doing an amazing job for his community.”)
Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 4, 2018
Lemon prefaced his remarks on Monday by saying, “As a journalist, I don’t really like being the story here, but because of how important it is for each of us to stand up for what is right and what is decent, I’m going to tell you exactly how I feel, starting right now.” He noted that Trump’s insults of himself and James, two successful black men, reflect a history of black people being stereotyped as less intelligent.
“The president has called a lot of people stupid,” Lemon said. “Some of those people are white. But I would just like to note that referring to an African American as dumb—remember, this is America—is one of the oldest canards of America’s racist past and present.”
Lemon was prepared with evidence, pointing to Trump’s past disparaging comments about black NFL players kneeling during the national anthem; his criticism of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), an outspoken Trump critic whom the president has called a “very low IQ individual”; and his comments about President Barack Obama, whom Trump speculated hadn’t been born in the United States (an accusation he later backtracked).
“Notice a pattern?” Lemon asked. “The president constantly denigrates people of color, and women, too. Let me not mince words here: This president traffics in racism and is fueled by bullying.
“Will the country stand up for [these people]? We, the decent and truly patriotic people who really love America and believe in its greatness, have to. Because clearly Donald Trump won’t.”
Trump has yet to respond to the broadcast.