CNN's Lemon Hypes Isolated CPAC Incident as Potential 'Monkey Wrench' for GOP

After a random CPAC attendee defended the benefits of slavery over the weekend, CNN's Don Lemon played it up as more baggage to a Republican party struggling to connect with minorities, on Sunday night's Newsroom.

"Listen, this won't help," he brought up the incident during a panel discussion about the GOP's outreach to minorities. He played the clip twice and narrated the details afterwards, all within the span of a few minutes. Then he implied it could "throw a monkey wrench" into GOP outreach.

Even while providing context Lemon hyped it as a potential problem for Republicans: "This is one guy, right? But we all know one person or a few people can throw a monkey wrench into something like what Reince Priebus is trying to do, spending $10 million on minority outreach."

GOP strategist Ana Navarro gave some much-needed context: "But, you know, there were 10,000 people that went through there in three days. You ever been to any political event where there's thousands of people, you know it's very hard to keep some jerks out, to keep the crazy out."

Lemon then teed up liberal panel member L.Z. Granderson: "is it fair to link him this one guy who sit up – fair to link him to the Republican Party and CPAC's efforts in any way?"

A transcript of the segment, which aired on CNN Newsroom on March 18 at 6:26 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

DON LEMON: Listen, this won't help. And I want to give this example. You were at CPAC this week, a huge gathering of political conservatives. I want to show everyone an incident from Friday. It's at a session titled "Trump the Race Card: Are you sick and tired of being called a racist when you know you're not?" When a guy stands up and he disrupts the moderator and he appears to defend the benefits of slavery. Listen closely.

(Video Clip)

K. CARL SMITH, founder, Frederick Douglass Republicans: When Douglass escaped from slavery, I think 10 years or 20 years after he escaped slavery, he writes a letter to his former slave master and says, "I forgive you. For all the things you did to me."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For giving him shelter and food all those years?

SMITH: No!

(Crosstalk)

(End Video Clip)

(...)

LEMON: As we were talking about before the break, at a session at the CPAC conference this week titled "Trump the Race Card: Are you sick and tired of being called a racist when you know you're not one?" A guy stands up, disrupts the moderator and he appears to defend the benefits of slavery. Listen again.

(Video Clip)

K. CARL SMITH, founder, Frederick Douglass Republicans: When Douglass escaped from slavery, I think 10 years or 20 years after he escaped from slavery, he writes a letter to his former slave master and says, I forgive you for all of the things you did to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For giving him shelter and food and –  

SMITH: No!

(Crosstalk)

(End Video Clip)

LEMON: Okay, so listen, he said forgive them for what? He's talking about Frederick Douglass, and Frederick Douglass wrote a letter to his former slave master saying, I forgive you. The guy says, forgive him for what, for providing him food and shelter, and putting a roof over his head and what have you. Listen, Ana, let's just be fair. This is one guy, right? But we all know one person or a few people can throw a monkey wrench into something like what Reince Priebus is trying to do, spending $10 million on minority outreach.

NAVARRO: Don, it's unfortunate. It's disappointing. It's stupid, it's racist. There should be no room for that in the Republican Party, there should be no room for that in America. But it also did not happen at an official CPAC event. You should know that CPAC is a fundraiser, and every sponsor gets two hours to put on their own panels.

This was a panel that was put on by one of those sponsors. I have spoken to CPAC leadership about this particular incident. They've got the information on this man. They're not going to ever allow him into any CPAC event before -- again. But, you know, there were 10,000 people that went through there in three days.

You ever been to any political event where there's thousands of people, you know it's very hard to keep some jerks out, to keep the crazy out. You've got 10,000 people in three days. I can also tell you that CPAC did some great efforts to have more diversity than I have ever seen at CPAC. They had 10 black conservative speakers on the stage at official CPAC events. I know that doesn't sound like much. But you try to find 10 conservative black speakers and you tell me if it's not a great effort on the part of CPAC.

(Laughter)

LEMON: L.Z., I mean, is it fair to link him this one guy who sit up – fair to link him to the Republican Party and CPAC's efforts in any way?

GRANDERSON: I think it's fair to link him to the Republican Party, but I don't think it's fair to paint the entire Republican Party as being represented to by this one person. You know, we have to go back to see where the tide really turned, right? And that was 1964 Civil Rights law being signed by Lyndon Johnson. And he said, and this is to paraphrase him, I have lost the South for a generation, meaning the Democrats have the lost the South for a generation.

And if you really peel back what he's trying to say is that anyone who is against this idea of diversity is going to flee the Democratic Party and go to the Republican Party, and since the signing of this law, Democrats have had a very difficult time penetrating that bloc of the South states, of the traditional southern states.

And racial tension is in part of that bloc. Now if the Republican Party really wants to move forward in terms of having diversity, it needs to acknowledge – acknowledge – not say this is who we are, but acknowledge that that part of our history is who still continues to make up a small fraction of the Republican Party. And we're not going to continue to allow these people to be there anymore. There was a CNN employee who's had shells thrown at her and was called a monkey. Had they gone on stage and said this kind of attitude is kind of -- actions not tolerated here at the RNC, we would not continue to embrace these kind of people. They didn't do that. They ignored it. And I hope they don't ignore this because that's not what they should be doing.

LEMON: All right. L.Z., that's going to have to be the last word.

NAVARRO: No, they didn't ignore it.

(Crosstalk)

LEMON: Ana, thank you very much. We have --

NAVARRO: Those people got thrown out.
 

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