CNN Panel Compares Traditional Marriage Supporters to Segregationists, Slave Owners

CNN's Friday afternoon "panel" was a disgusting display of liberal non-tolerance. Anchor Don Lemon compared defenders of traditional marriage with opponents of interracial marriage and ripped their cause as "discrimination," while a panel member compared them to slave owners.

"No one should have to tolerate hate or discrimination," Lemon lectured radio host Ben Ferguson who had expressed his support for traditional marriage. When Ferguson shot back "But I don't hate you," Essence magazine editor Teresa Wiltz snarled, "The slave owners didn't hate the slaves either."

"You don't hate me, but that's discriminating against me," Lemon responded to Ferguson.

Lemon also compared opponents of same-sex marriage with opponents of interracial marriage:

"[P]eople felt the same way about interracial marriage. People didn't agree with interracial marriage. People didn't think black people should vote. People didn't think women should vote. Did that make it right? Should you respect that viewpoint?"

"Should you respect that viewpoint?" Lemon asks. This is what he thinks of those against gay marriage, that their viewpoint needs to be thrown out. That fits neatly with what he told the Dallas Voice back in January:

"And that's not my slogan to be fair and balanced. My thing is about accuracy and the truth. Just because someone has another point of view or opinion, I don't believe in false fairness. I just believe in the truth."

He offered another ridiculous take on opposing same-sex marriage: "Do you have to have a loved one in order to empathize with someone who may be – who you may consider as 'other'?" So opponents of same-sex marriage are unable to "empathize" with gay people who they "may consider as 'other'?"

Not to be outdone, panel member David Sirota of Salon.com joined Lemon and Wiltz in ganging up on Ferguson. "You just said you oppose gay marriage. You opposed extending the same rights to marriage as everybody else. That is intolerant. That is the definition of intolerance," he railed against Ferguson.

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on CNN Newsroom on March 22 at 2:22 p.m. EDT:

DON LEMON: Let's talk about the GOP and the G-A-Ys. More specifically, same-sex marriage, starting with Senator Saxby Chambliss making sure everyone knows he's not gay. By the way, did you know he's not gay? Because when asked by Politico if he would consider changing his views on gay marriage, the Georgia Republican said, quote, "I am not gay, so I'm not going to marry one." So let's remember, just a few days ago, the GOP released an autopsy on the party to help it figure out how to best move the party forward. One of these items was to be more inclusive. Ben, what kind of start was that?

BEN FERGUSON, radio talk show host: How did I know you were going to come to me first on this one, right?

LEMON: Oh, come on. It's obvious. You're the – go ahead. You're the guy who said you would be on the cover of Out magazine with me. That's why. Go.

FERGUSON: Side by side, exactly. I think what's interesting about this is how many times senators get asked the same question. Obviously this is not the PC way to answer the question. I think we can all agree with that. But it's also, if you're a journalism student out there, don't ask stupid questions of people. If you know what the answer is going to be, and I think that was his point. It was poorly worded. Don't get me wrong. And it was not a statement that would make more people per se want to become conservatives, and shame on him for that. But at the same time, he's been very blunt about his stance on gay marriage, and I think that's the reason why he got a little irritated and answered the way he did. I know his advisers wouldn't have told him to do this, though.

LEMON: Theresa, there are also – reaching out to African-Americans and this, I don't know, maybe there will be some different outreach for African-Americans, but this – I'll ask you the same question, doesn't appear to be a good start here.

TERESA WILTZ, Essence magazine: Doesn't appear to be a good start for Saxby or Republicans in general in terms of alienating their –
 
LEMON: For Republicans reaching out to – trying to make the tent more inclusive.

WILTZ: Certainly CPAC was evidence of that. That was not, you know, exactly a ringing way for them to try to reach out to anybody with, you know, the guy standing up for slavery at CPAC. And then in terms of Saxby, to me this is a classic non-statement statement. It's kind of, way to miss the point. I would take -- I don't exactly agree with Ben on that. I don't think he was taking a journalist to task. I think it was just a real sarcastic non-answer. And missing the point.

LEMON: It is not just him. In New Jersey, there is a bill to ban gay conversion therapy with minors making its way through state legislature, and Governor Chris Christie does not believe in gay conversion therapy, but he hasn't said if he will sign the ban into law. So he doesn't believe in it, but he's not sure he's going to sign it into law. Is that a non-answer answer, just like Teresa said about the other thing?

WENDY WALSH, psychologist: It makes absolutely no sense. If he's supposed to represent his beliefs and we voted him in because of his beliefs, then he should vote on his beliefs. But obviously, there may be other special interests involved. And I always question that. Who is he voting for? Who are politicians voting for this day? And you and I don't have to debate how wrong gay conversion therapy is, or any way to try to change someone's sexual orientation, it doesn't make sense. Have we not reached a time where we can just be who we are? Come on!

LEMON: David, you know, we saw Rob Portman, you know, last week saying, my son came out to me, therefore I'm changing how I feel about same-sex marriage. I'm in support. Do you have to have a loved one in order to empathize with someone who may be – who you may consider as other?

DAVID SIROTA, syndicated columnist & radio host: I think what's revealing about what Rob Portman did was essentially express the fact that when Republicans have to deal with reality, when they come out of the political bubble and they're actually connected to things that regular people face, then sometimes their policies will change. And I want to go back to what Saxby Chambliss said. I don't think that what Saxby Chambliss said is something that's irrelevant. I think it's actually quite revealing.

Here is what the Republican Party is essentially saying through Saxby Chambliss. That essentially that if an issue doesn't affect them personally, then they don't care. Saxby Chambliss is essentially saying, that because he's not gay, he doesn't have to care. He doesn't have to care. And I think this is exactly what's at the root of the problem for the Republican Party, they continue to project an idea that if something doesn't touch them personally, then that's the way they're going to be.

LEMON: Okay, Ben, quickly, go ahead.

FERGUSON: What I think is absurd about this conversation is the fact that you guys are sitting there trying to imply that I, or any other conservative, automatically takes a Saxby Chambliss pill at 8:00 a.m. and we agree with everything he said, which is absolutely absurd.

(Crosstalk)

FERGUSON: Let me finish. Let me finish. What you're showing – you're assuming there is absolutely no tolerance by others. Do you know how many congressmen and senators came out in support of Portman –

(Crosstalk)
 
LEMON: I'll let you finish, Ben. Let me get in here and tell you that is not true. No one is implying that. As a matter of fact, Ana Navarro, who is a Republican, who is a Republican consultant and a contributor here on CNN, and a number of other Republicans have come out and said that they support same-sex marriage. I don't think anyone's assuming that. But you are here, you can defend yourself.

FERGUSON: But the panel just – several people on the panel just implied that this is the whole Republican party, and the Republican party, and I'm quoting, "speaking through Saxby Chambliss."

SIROTA: The Republican Party opposes gay marriage. The Republican Party opposes gay marriage. It's been in their platform, John Boehner opposes gay marriage. The point here is that they're not willing to be tolerant.

LEMON: Let him finish. Go ahead.

FERGUSON: I personally, I personally think that marriage should be defined between a man and a woman, and I'm also in favor of civil unions. That does not mean that I am intolerant towards gays and lesbians, which you're trying to paint a picture.

SIROTA: Yes it does. It means that you don't think –

(Crosstalk)

FERGUSON: You have no tolerance for my viewpoint!

SIROTA: No, Ben, you made – you've essentially lied.

(Crosstalk)

SIROTA: Hold on a minute. What you're saying is that gay people should not have the same protections under the law as everybody else. That is by definition, intolerant. You've said you oppose gay marriage. You just said you oppose gay marriage. You opposed extending the same rights to marriage as everybody else. That is intolerant. That is the definition of intolerance.

FERGUSON: Sir, civil unions would give you the same protections under the law legally –

SIROTA: It's different.
 
(Crosstalk)

LEMON: Stop it. Ben, what he is saying is in America we don't do separate but equal. That's what the civil rights movement was about. Go ahead Ben.

FERGUSON: And this is what I would say in response to that. When you turn gay marriage into anyone that's against it, as now you're somehow the equivalent of the civil rights movement and/or being like a racist, I think that is incredibly intolerant –
 
LEMON: Because people felt the same way about interracial marriage. People didn't agree with interracial marriage. People didn't think black people should vote. People didn't think women should vote. Did that make it right? Should you respect that viewpoint?

FERGUSON: Don, Don, Don, do you honestly believe – hold on. Hold on. Let me answer this question. Don, do you honestly believe that I don't like you as a person because you happen to have a different lifestyle than I do? Seriously.

LEMON: It never even crossed my mind.

(Crosstalk)

SIROTA: You don't want him to have the same protections under the law.

FERGUSON: That's my point, though. That's my point. And that is exactly –

SIROTA: That's the point. You don't want him to have the same protections under the law.

FERGUSON: No, I don't.

(Crosstalk)

LEMON: Hold on. Go ahead, Teresa.

WILTZ: Ben, can't you personally be against gay marriage and just personally, but not, you know, be against having other people having the right to do that? That's your own personal viewpoint.

SIROTA: That's a great point.

WILTZ: But why impose that upon other people and not have equal rights under the law?

FERGUSON: I'm not trying to – I'm not trying to make anyone that's gay or lesbian, including my friends that are gay or lesbian, force them into marriage. I'm saying why can't you show tolerance and actually accept that marriage has been defined between a man and woman and civil unions would give you all the protections under the law.

(Crosstalk)

LEMON: I'm going to give Wendy Walsh the last word. But Ben, I'm going to say this before Wendy gets the last word. No one should have to tolerate hate or discrimination. That's –

FERGUSON: But I don't hate you. I don't hate you.

LEMON: You don't hate me, but that's discriminating against me because you're saying --

WILTZ: The slave owners didn't hate the slaves either.

LEMON: – what you're saying different but equal, that I don't have the same rights that you have as an American. Wendy, go ahead.

FERGUSON: Don, civil unions would get the same legal protections.

WALSH: The elephant in the living room that we're all talking around here is that what we're really seeing is enormous change and variance within the GOP. I think it is so important to keep this capitalist society if you will, or neo-feudalism, that we keep at least a two-party system, if not more. But the Republicans are trying to figure out who they are and what their beliefs are. There is not a lot of cohesion. There is a lot of variance. And I think it is all good. This is all growth. And they need to be the watchdogs of the party that's in power right now. So that's it.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center