To discuss presidential candidate Herman Cain's views on race and racism, CNN's Don Lemon aired the opinions of two African-American liberals, in addition to analysis from conservative blogger Erick Erickson.
Lemon, himself an African-American anchor who has shown his own liberal bias in the past, hosted leftist LZ Granderson of ESPN and played a clip of Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher slamming Cain as a racist at the end of CNN's 12 p.m. hour of Newsroom.
"What Herman Cain said was a racist, bigoted statement and he should be treated like a racist and bigoted person who makes those racist and bigoted statements," Belcher ranted on September 30. That clip was re-played in Lemon's segment, which insinuated that Herman Cain says such provocative things about race because of his skin color.
Cain, Lemon began, "says things....that you don't usually hear publicly from the mouth of a black man." He added later that "Cain's skin color offers him cover to say things that whites, and the other GOP candidates, wouldn't dare say."
A transcript of the segment, which aired on October 19 at 12:56 p.m. EDT, is as follows:
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: So Herman Cain breaks a vow not to talk about race. Some conservatives, they welcome his comments. But some blacks say that he is not helping to advance the discussion about racism. Don Lemon takes an in-depth look.
HERMAN CAIN, GOP presidential candidate: I am an American black conservative, an "abc," and I'm proud of it.
DON LEMON, CNN correspondent (voice-over): Herman Cain –
CAIN: I've been called a racist too.
LEMON: – says things –
CAIN: Because I won't stay on the Democrat plantation.
LEMON: – that you don't usually hear publicly from the mouth of a black man.
CAIN: Many African-Americans have been brainwashed into not being open-minded. Not even considering a conservative point of view.
LEMON: Does he have a point? CNN contributor L.Z. Granderson.
L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN contributor: There is definitely a conversation to be had about the voting tendencies of the black community, absolutely. Is he trying to have that conversation? No, I don't think so. I don't think you can engage the black community on one side by dropping bombs like "plantation" on the other.
LEMON: Granderson questions Cain's motives.
GRANDERSON: I think he's definitely trying to use words, use phrases, even take positions that are counterintuitive of what you would think a black person would say and think, but he's not necessarily doing it from a genuine place, but from a contrarian place, from a person who's trying to generate some sort of buzz.
LEMON: It appears to be working. Cain is everywhere – from major magazines, to talk shows. His poll numbers are rising. He's drawing bigger crowds – of mostly white conservatives, Tea Party members, who according to conservative commentator Erick Erickson, are drawn to Cain's stop blaming racism message.
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN contributor: You can't deny that Herman Cain speaks for the Tea Party. They are not the homogenously white group that people characterize them as, and Herman Cain really resonates with them.
LEMON: And Cain's skin color offers him cover to say things that whites, and the other GOP candidates, wouldn't dare say.
CAIN: I don't believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way.
LEMON: Imagine a white person, let alone another GOP candidate, uttering or even insinuating the same thing. Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher.
CORNELL BELCHER, Democratic strategist: What Herman Cain said was a racist, bigoted statements and should be treated like a racist and bigoted person who makes racist and bigoted statements.
ERICKSON: I think Herman Cain does get a pass largely because he's a black conservative and he can say things that black conservatives can say in the same way a black person can say things that I couldn't say or any white person couldn't say relating to their experience in the United States.
LEMON: An experience that Cain believes he's more in tune with than the black man whose job he wants.
CAIN (audio clip): He's never been a part of the black experience in America. I can talk about that. I can talk about what it really meant to be 'po' before I was poor.
LEMON: So, four years later, like candidate Obama, candidate Cain, by chance or design, has landed on America's political third rail – race.
CAIN: I often have people ask me because I happen to – I happen to be an American black conservative – aren't you angry with the history of America? What a stupid question.
LEMON: And for a candidate who has vowed not to talk about race, lately Cain is certainly doing a lot of it. Don Lemon, CNN, Atlanta.