CNN Anchor Lectures Guest That He Has Racial Blind Spot Because of White 'Privilege'

CNN anchor Don Lemon lectured conservative radio host Ben Ferguson for being quick to pan President Obama's Friday address on race, during Saturday's 4 p.m. ET hour of Newsroom.

Lemon -- who has played the race card by twice comparing traditional marriage supporters to segregationists -- told Ferguson that since he's white, he has a "place of privilege" that minorities don't have and therefore can't fully understand the plight of black people in America.

He first told Ferguson, "you still have a certain entitlement as a white person that many people of color don't have. You don't see that?" Lemon then substituted "privilege" for "entitlement."

"I should say a place of privilege, not necessarily a place of entitlement. And you're filtering it through a place of privilege that you don't understand, your privilege does not allow you to see certain biases and certain circumstances in this society," Lemon informed Ferguson of his racial blind spot.

Lemon also blamed Ferguson for having a "knee-jerk reaction" to Obama's words. What would he call CNN's immediate post-speech analysis?

"What I said on the air yesterday is that I hoped that you would sleep on it and at least think about it before having a knee jerk reaction to what the President was saying, the most powerful African-American in the world, telling you that there is an issue. And you're telling him that his circumstances and what he sees and what he lives is not valid. And that is insulting to do that."

Ferguson had claimed that President Obama expressed "paranoia" on race: "I think that's an over-generalization to put it in race in such a simple term that paranoia of white people in America to the point where every black man is a suspect."

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on CNN Newsroom on July 20 at 4:16 p.m. EDT:

DON LEMON: We have to wrap. My producers are telling me we don't have time, go ahead.

BEN FERGUSON: Well, what I'll say is this. I have been profiled and the police told me I was profiled, but I don't assume that every African-American man, even though two of them shot at me from point-blank range, are out to kill me and I think that's an over-generalization to put it in race in such a simple term that paranoia of white people in America to the point where every black man is a suspect.

LEMON: It's not paranoia. It's not paranoia. Ben, simply just from a place of – what do I want to say, your – it's not entitlement, but you're at a place in society –

FERGUSON: Well, I came from poverty so I don't think I'm entitled.

LEMON: Yes, but it still – you still have a certain entitlement as a white person that many people of color don't have. You don't see that?

FERGUSON: When I look at where I grew up, and I grew up in a community surrounded by poverty and I was the minority –  

LEMON: Maybe I should – scratch that.

FERGUSON: I don't think I have any extra advantage.

LEMON: Scratch that, I should say a place of privilege. I'll wrap producers, hang on. I should say a place of privilege, not necessarily a place of entitlement. And you're filtering it through a place of privilege that you don't understand, your privilege does not allow you to see certain biases and certain circumstances in this society. And I – my – what I said on the air yesterday –

FERGUSON: But Don, Don, I have to say this –  

LEMON: Just let me finish. Let me finish. What I said on the air yesterday is that I hoped that you would sleep on it and at least think about it before having a knee jerk reaction to what the President was saying, the most powerful African-American in the world, telling you that there is an issue. And you're telling him that his circumstances and what he sees and what he lives is not valid. And that is insulting to do that. Yes, that's what you're saying.

FERGUSON: Well, I didn't have a knee-jerk reaction because I've been talking about race the majority of my life coming from a very racially diverse community in Memphis, Tennessee, so this wasn't knee jerk. My point was this, when you say –  

LEMON: You immediately – you immediately responded to the President –  

FERGUSON: Let me finish, let me finish. I listened to you.

LEMON: You immediately responded to the President without even thinking. You didn't even give it five minutes, you didn't even give it overnight. You immediately responded through your filter and you didn't wait and say, well let me think about this.

FERGUSON: Don, Don – first of all, it was more than an hour since the President spoke when I made my comments and my point was this and I make it again today. When you come out as the President of the United States of America and you paint a picture that every white woman in America is overly racist towards black men –  

LEMON: That's not what the President said. You're putting words in the President's mouth. The President did not say that. He didn't say that. You can go back to the President's transcript, he did not say that.

FERGUSON: He said that they clutched their purse.

LEMON: He said he's had experiences where people do that. He did not say that every white woman did that. Now that is taking a leap, Ben. I got to run.

FERGUSON: He implied it.

LEMON: He didn't imply it. He would have said – if he wanted to say it, he would have said all white women. He said he has experience where people do that. Some people do that, not all people. But anyway, I'm getting – my producers are going to kill me. I've got to run. Thank you for coming on. We'll be right back.

FERGUSON: Thank you, sir. Good to see you.

LEMON: You as well.

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