CNN's Don Lemon Belittles Rick Santorum Over Gay Rights Issue

Openly-gay CNN anchor Don Lemon badgered GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum over his views on gay marriage Friday, questioning his stance on gay rights and if he really had any gay friends. A brief clip of the interview that aired on Newsroom Friday afternoon revealed Lemon to be fairly testy in his questions.

Having revealed in May that he is gay, Lemon defended his objectivity as a journalist and dismissed the notion that he would be biased on the gay rights debate. But later he told a pro-gay newspaper "I hope to change minds" as an openly-gay journalist, and that there should be more journalists who come out. NewsBusters has documented Lemon's history of pro-gay bias.

"[S]ome people have been saying that [Santorum] is homophobic because he wants to change the Constitution in support of what he calls 'traditional marriage,'" Lemon reported, making sure to emphasize the words "traditional marriage" and use dramatic quotation marks with his fingers.

He was also unconvinced at Santorum's claim that he has gay friends. When the former senator replied in the affirmative to Lemon's question if he had gay friends, and added that he has employed gay people, Lemon deadpanned "Yeah. And friends," as if he believed Santorum had gay employees but was unsure if he really had gay friends.

An exasperated Santorum replied "Yes!" and Lemon then further scrutinized him. "You know when people say I have black friends," he said before pausing, to which Santorum stammered and replied that he had gay friends and had discussions with them on the gay rights issue.

Interestingly enough, in an interview with HLN's Joy Behar shortly after he came out, Lemon was asked how he would respond to interviewing conservative presidential candidates who did not support gay rights. Behar specifically mentioned Santorum as an example, and added he "seems like a big homophobe."

"And so you're going to have people sit down with you, like Rick Santorum, who seems like a big homophobe, and others, because they're running for president, or whatever. And we'll talk about gay marriage, et cetera. How do you feel that you'll be able to handle that easily?" Behar asked Lemon on May 16.

"I don't think just because I'm gay that it makes, it takes my brain away....Or it makes me not be objective," Lemon responded. "I've been doing this job for a long time. And I've been objective, and I think I've been fair," he added.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on June 10 at 1:28 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

RANDI KAYE: And Don Lemon joins us now from Manchester, New Hampshire, the site of CNN's first presidential debate. Don, if I understand it correctly, you ran into Rick Santorum at the Manchester Airport yesterday.

DON LEMON: I did! And, you know, it's kind of interesting that you were talking – I saw the segment just a couple of minutes ago about Tracy Morgan. And I asked him a question that was sort of similar to that, because some people have been saying that he's homophobic because he wants to change the Constitution in support of what he calls traditional marriage. And so I said – I asked him, I said, you know, Mr. Santorum, some people find it contradictory because you are for small government or at least smaller or limited government, but yet you want to use the government to change the Constitution. And he responded to my question by saying – talking about having gay friends. Take a listen, Randi, and then we can talk about it.

(Video Clip)

LEMON: Do you have any gay friends?

RICK SANTORUM, Republican presidential candidate: Yeah. In fact I've had gay people work for me.

LEMON: Yeah. And friends.

SANTORUM: Yes!

LEMON: You know when people say I have black friends.

SANTORUM: I – well, I mean, yes, I have – in fact I was with a gay friend of mine just two days ago. I mean, so, yeah, I do. And they respect that I have differences of opinion on that. I talk about these things in front of them and we have conversations about it. They differ from me. But they know that I love them because they're my friends.

(End Video Clip)

LEMON: And he went on to say, you know, at least he talks about it with his friends. They respect his opinion. But he doesn't feel that they should have the same rights, he said. And he said he wants to preserve what he calls, he says, he said special rights for traditional marriage. Those were his words. We're going to have that entire conversation. It was about a five-minute, very interesting conversation tomorrow when we're live from here starting at 5:00.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014