For some reason, Don Lemon’s tenure in Philadelphia as a WCAU NBC 10 news reporter doesn’t stick out in my mind, probably because he existed well below the radar. He was a weekend anchor at the station for several years, and then went on to the big time at CNN.
He is still an anchor with the network today. But in the last year or so, the self-proclaimed “Twitter King” has joined the hijinks of the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show to preach his ever-evolving doctrine of black respectability politics on Tuesday and Thursdays.
He’s giving Bill Cosby a run for his money.
It’s clear that Don Lemon is no longer content to report the news. Indeed, his star is rising on the basis of controversy. It’s no longer adequate for Lemon to sit at the desk and read the tape. He wants us to know his name.
The problem is, no one seems to respect what it stands for. Lemon has had a certain fixation on race-related issues, indicting the so-called black community over everything from its use of the n-word, to sagging pants, to his characterization that black people are somehow more homophobic than others. I addressed that issue here.
Lemon, who came out as a gay man in his book, Transparent, has been exactly that in his efforts to advance his career. His recent offense has made his intentions all the more clear. Tuesday, he outlined a proposition that put personal safety and individual liberties at odds.
“Would you rather be politically correct or safe and alive?” he asked on Joyner’s show this week in a discussion about the unconstitutional and often racially motivated stop-and-frisk policy of the NYPD and Philadelphia Police.
In New York City alone, 55 percent of those stopped were black; 32 percent of those stopped were Latino, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. An overwhelming 89 percent of all individuals stopped were totally innocent.
Here’s an example of how it’s happened in Philadelphia last month.
“I abhor hypocrisy,” The New York Times quoted Lemon as saying about his decision to come out. “I think if you’re going to be in the business of news, and telling people the truth, of trying to shed light in dark places, then you’ve got to be honest. You’ve got to have the same rules for yourself as you do for everyone else.”
But Lemon is the same guy who sued Tower Records for racial profiling in 2011, while he was still working in Philadelphia, employed in the business of news.
He’s the same guy who complained that actor Jonah Hill treated him like “the help” after an awkward exchange in a hotel lobby, in which the news anchor appeared to feel slighted after only a passing encounter between the two.
In the last year, Lemon has made headlines for sure, repositioning himself not only as a newsman, but the news itself, particularly as Twitter users continue to record their collective displeasure at the racial fires he continues to stoke.
As he ascends, and his name embeds itself in more and more headlines, he would do well to remember the words of that NYT interview and the advice he snarkily Tweeted at Hill following their meeting: