CNN's Lemon Harasses Conservative Guest; 'I Can Interrupt as Much as I Want'

In yet another episode of CNN's Don Lemon pestering a conservative guest, he belittled and smeared The Heritage Foundation's Ryan Anderson on Sunday. Anderson had claimed that same-sex marriage is not illegal, just not recognized as "marriage" by many state governments and the federal government.

"Well, I'm the anchor of this show, so I can interrupt as much as I want. So let me interrupt and then I'll let you talk," Lemon rudely lectured Anderson. Lemon called his argument "absurd" and accused him of spreading "rumors and infactual information."

"And it's also important to come on to tell the truth and not spread rumors and infactual information when you come on," Lemon took a shot at Anderson at the segment's end.

Anderson had argued, before Lemon first interrupted him, that same-sex marriage "is not illegal. There are no laws against it. When something's illegal, it's criminal to engage in that activity."

"[T]hat's just not true. It is illegal. They can't be married," Lemon insisted of same-sex couples. When Anderson tried to respond that "when something is illegal, you can go to jail for doing it," Lemon interrupted him again: "Did you hear what I said? I said let me finish, Ryan. Let me finish and I will let you talk. Okay?"

At one point, Lemon uttered in a passive-aggressive insult, "Go ahead, Ryan. Finish your point. As absurd as it is. Go ahead."

And when Lemon asked both his guests to make their arguments for or against legalizing same-sex marriage, he once again trashed Anderson's argument. "Ryan, there is so much wrong in what you said, that children do best when they're with their married parents," he asserted.

(H/T MediaIte)

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on March 24 on CNN Newsroom at 7:12 p.m. EDT:

DON LEMON: Right now people are lining up outside the Supreme Court trying to get front row seats to history. The Court tackles same-sex marriage in less than two days. Justices will hear arguments for the first case on Tuesday involving California's Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage. The second case centers on the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

CNN.com, the number one news website on the planet, has been covering this issue very closely and extensively. John Sutter is an opinion writer, one of the voices featured on the site. And John, you recently followed some gay couples. I looked at a video you had this morning, I didn't read the entire thing, trying to get married in Mississippi, a state that bans same-sex marriage. Here's a quick clip of that.

(Video Clip)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Miss. Rockwood is going to sign on the X's, Miss Welch on the O's.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know this application is a record, and it is a permanent record. But we're showing it's denied.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't imagine what it might be like to be in your position, to have to tell people who clearly have a home together, share things and love each other –

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, and I appreciate you all understanding –

(End Video Clip)

LEMON: That's part of a story on CNN.com by John Sutter. Also with us is Ryan Anderson of The Heritage Foundation. He's also written on this issue for CNN.com. Ryan's most recent column argues that the court should not rewrite marriage laws. So first to John. What compelled you to get so invested and put together these pieces about same-sex marriage for CNN.com?

JOHN SUTTER, CNN opinion columnist: Well I think there's an incredible amount of bravery that those women you saw in that clip showed by being part of that protest. Mississippi is one of 29 states where gay people can be fired simply because of their sexual orientation. It's one of 29 states where you can be evicted simply for being gay. I think it's important to try to broaden this conversation about LGBT rights in our country. It's not just about marriage. That's what's before the Court this week, but there are a host of ways that our laws discriminate against LGBT people and make them, give them basically second-class citizen status.

LEMON: Ryan you said you don't believe gay marriage should be legal and especially you took issue with what's happening at the Supreme Court. Why did you take issue with that, and you took issue with a Pediatric study that was -- that came out this week saying that gay parents -- that children were well off even with gay parents and it made them to be better kids even if they had been with single heterosexual parents.

RYAN T. ANDERSON, The Heritage Foundation: Sure. Just to clarify, the issue here is not legality. So in all 50 states, there's nothing illegal about same-sex marriage. Two people of the same-sex can live together and love each other. They can go to their church and their church can perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. They can work at a place of employment that will give them same-sex benefits. What's at issue right now is whether or not the Supreme Court will redefine marriage for everyone. And whether or not the Supreme will then --

(Crosstalk)

LEMON: Wait, wait, wait -- hang on. You said same-sex marriage is not illegal?

ANDERSON: It's not illegal. There are no laws against it. When something's illegal, it's criminal to engage in that activity.

LEMON: That's just not true. That's not true. I know it's a matter of semantics that you're saying but that's just not true. It is illegal. They can't be married. Gays –

(Crosstalk)

LEMON: Hang on, let me finish. Gay people don't have the same benefits --

ANDERSON: Well, you interrupted me, just to be clear.

LEMON: Well, I'm the anchor of this show, so I can interrupt as much as I want. So let me interrupt and then I'll let you talk. But it's a matter of semantics what you're saying, because it is illegal. Gay people don't have the same rights --

ANDERSON: No, no, it's not illegal. When something is illegal, you can go to jail for doing it.

LEMON: Did you hear what I said? I said let me finish, Ryan. Let me finish and I will let you talk. Ok? It's a matter of semantics what you're saying, because it is illegal. They don't have the same rights. People don't have the same rights. You can't see in many places people in the hospital, people who are sick. You don't have the same rights under tax laws. You don't have the same benefits. It's not legal to marry -- to be a married person in many states. Now go ahead.

ANDERSON: All right. So again, I disagree with you, because when something is illegal, you can go to jail for doing it. It's illegal to kill, it's illegal to rape, it's illegal to steal. Being in a same-sex relationship is not illegal. So I think it's not a matter of semantics. Actually I think you're just using the wrong terminology.

LEMON: No. You're using the wrong terminology. You're saying being in a same-sex relationship is not illegal. No it's not. But being married in certain states is illegal.

ANDERSON: No. Again, you can't go to jail for committing a same-sex marriage. The question is what is marriage?

(Crosstalk)

LEMON: Go ahead, Ryan. Finish your point. As absurd as it is. Go ahead.

ANDERSON: I don't really think it's absurd. I think you're being a little rude. I think a lot of Americans –

(Crosstalk)

LEMON: I don't appreciate you coming on –  

ANDERSON: – think marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. They want laws to reflect that. And it's not a matter of legality. It's a matter of what is marriage.

LEMON: If it wasn't illegal, it would not be going to court to be legalized.

ANDERSON: Again, I think you're using the wrong terms. The question right now is redefinition. It's not going to legalize something. It's going to redefine something. It's going to redefine what marriage is.

LEMON: It's not going to the Supreme Court to be redefined. It's going to the Supreme Court so that it can be legal across the country. It's not going to be redefined. That's not why it's going to the Supreme Court.

ANDERSON: It is. Right now the definition of marriage for the federal government and for 41 states is the union of a man and a woman, a husband and a wife --

LEMON: That is the legal --

ANDERSON: – a mother and a father.

LEMON: What is the legal definition of marriage?

ANDERSON: Right now marriage is defined in 41 states and by the federal government as a union of a man and a woman, a husband and wife. And the case before the Supreme Court is asking the Court to strike down those laws and redefine marriage, and then use the coercive power of the government to force everyone to accept a new definition of marriage.

LEMON: Okay. If each of you had 30 seconds before the Supreme Court to make your case right now, let's hear it. Ryan, what would your best argument be?

ANDERSON: The reason that the government's in the marriage business is not because of my romantic life or because of the desires of adults. The government's in the marriage business because men and women produce children. Children need mothers and fathers, and marriage is the institution that unites a man and woman as husband and wife, to then be mother and father to the children that they produce. Mothers and fathers are different and distinct. Children do best when raised by their married mother and father. And that's why government's in the marriage business. All Americans are free to live and to love as they choose. But no one has the right to redefine marriage for everyone.

LEMON: Ryan, there is so much wrong in what you said, that children do best when they're with their married parents because --

ANDERSON: You really don't believe that children do best with their married mom and dad?

LEMON: No. Because not all married parents are good parents. Not all married parents are good parents. That's the reason for divorces. That's the reason why some children are taken from homes of heterosexual parents. Not all heterosexual parents are good parents. Not all children --

ANDERSON: No one said that everyone –

LEMON: But that's what your argument is saying. Go ahead, John.

ANDERSON: I said that children do best with their married mother and father.

LEMON: That's not true. That is not true.

ANDERSON: It is.

LEMON: No it's not.

ANDERSON: All the social science evidence – all the social science evidence –

LEMON: You're assuming that heterosexual marriages in a utopian society are perfect. It is not. So you cannot make that argument, but that is what your argument is saying.

(Crosstalk)

ANDERSON: I'm looking at the evidence. And the science shows that children do best –

LEMON: Ryan hang on. John – it's time for John's 30 seconds. Go ahead.

SUTTER: I think it's not fundamentally not about this point-counterpoint and what social science says or doesn't say. I think it's about listening to people across America and speaking with people who are in same-sex relationships or who do identify as LGBT.

And if you listen to them with an honest and empathetic ear, you can understand where they're coming from that, you know, state borders matters incredibly to them in a way that they don't to anyone else in this nation. And that, you know, we basically have two legal systems set up, one for, you know, gay and lesbian people and one for the rest of the country. And so I think it's more about just sort of taking like an honest and open approach to listening to these people and hearing what they have to say and where they're coming from. And that's what I try to do with my, you know, reporting that was reflected in that video earlier.

LEMON: And it's also important to come on to tell the truth and not spread rumors and infactual information when you come on to talk about --

ANDERSON: What did I say that was factually incorrect?

LEMON: Because what you're saying – forget. What you're saying is that it's not illegal, and it is illegal. That's the whole reason it's going to the Supreme Court to challenge its legality.

(Crosstalk)

ANDERSON: Show me in criminal law code where marriage is illegal. You're just wrong on this one, I'm sorry.

LEMON: Well, okay, thank you. We'll have to agree to disagree. Thank you both for joining us.
 

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