After conservative guest Will Cain scolded society for "cheap hashtag activism" on Boko Haram, CNN anchor Don Lemon exploded and accused him of a "dog whistle" insult of First Lady Michelle Obama.
Cain first ranted that "We do cheap outrage on TV. We do cheap hash tag activism when it comes to the girls in – with Boko Haram." He emphasized that he was accusing "society" and not pointing fingers at any one particular person, but after he criticized the government for using Twitter as its policy, Lemon jumped on him for what he saw as a back-handed slap at Michelle Obama: "I think what he said was a dog whistle to say, putting up a - you're talking about the first lady." [Video below the break. Audio here.]
After repeatedly defending himself, an exasperated Cain joked that "I need an interpreter so I can know my own words next time I'm on with Don." Lemon shot back, "I'm not stupid and I've been on television with you before and I know your game."
"The only person that invoked the First Lady today was Don Lemon, not me," Cain insisted. After anchor Ashleigh Banfield tried to reconcile everyone as a family, Lemon cattily replied "I'm not part of that family," looking in Cain's direction.
Below is a transcript of the segment:
12:37 p.m. EDT
WILL CAIN: We do cheap outrage on TV. We do cheap hashtag activism when it comes to the girls in -- with Boko Haram. And this is cheap. She's been a cheap punch line for too long.
MEL ROBBINS, CNN commentator: Whoa. Whoa. I don't think you want to connect the activism that actually got the world to pay attention to the girls with what happened to Monica Lewinsky.
CAIN: I'm telling you that putting a tweet up with a hashtag on it, you didn't do your duty today.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, "Legal View" host: You're right. There's a lot of cheap outrage on TV. I'm going to give you that. But when you look at a young woman who –
DON LEMON, CNN anchor: That's disgusting to say about over 200 girls who were -- what do you expect the First Lady to do?
CAIN: Don, I wasn't necessarily targeting the First Lady exclusively. It's not disgusting if you think –
LEMON: Okay, so who were you targeting exclusively when you said that? Hang on. Who were you targeting? Because that's whose photo – that's on the front page of the paper today. So who were you targeting? Who are you targeting then when you say that?
ROBBINS: Let's hear what Will has to say.
CAIN: Alright. You ready to listen?
LEMON: I'm asking you, who are you targeting?
BANFIELD: Okay, Will, you've got the floor. Go. Make it good.
CAIN: If they could rewind this tape 30 seconds you would hear it –
LEMON: Who are you targeting?
CAIN: This is amazing. You can't hear what I say. I said society has gotten cheap. We do cheap outrage on television. We do cheap hashtag activism on Twitter.
LEMON: And then you said putting up a picture with a hashtag on it, so who put up a picture with a hashtag?
CAIN: Every single person, Don. It's a meme.
LEMON: Okay. Then just say that.
CAIN: I didn't say anything about the First Lady. You did.
LEMON: I asked you. All you have to do is say every single person. She's on the front page of the paper.
CAIN: I promise you, I'm telling you everyone is to blame –
LEMON: That's all you have to say.
LEMON: What have you done? What did you do for those girls? What did you do personally for them? If you're so outraged by it – no, but what have you done?
LEMON: Besides sit here on television and criticize other people's efforts, if you're so concerned about it, what have you done?
CAIN: I'm pointing out something that is important, Don, that society has greater obligations –
LEMON: If you're going to point it out then do something to help rather than coming and criticizing other people, do something to help.
ROBBINS: You guys are actually on the same side because Will is arguing that we need to do more.
LEMON: No. I just think what he said was a dog whistle for to say,– oh, putting up – you're talking about the First Lady. Don't get on television on CNN and –
ROBBINS: He is not! You're the one that raised the First Lady.
BANFIELD: Whoa! I am hosting this show and I'm busting in, ya'll!
CAIN: Maybe I'll get an interpreter so I can know my own words next time I'm on with you.
LEMON: I'm not stupid and I've been on television with you before and I know your game. That's what you're talking about.
CAIN: The only person that invoked the First Lady today was Don Lemon, not me.
BANFIELD: It sounded like you were.
LEMON: No. You said it.
ROBBINS: He did not say that. He did not say that.
LEMON: It's exactly what you were inferring. You were talking about the U.S. government. You said – what did you say about your policies?
CAIN: I appreciate you being my interpreter.
LEMON: Yeah, well, you need one. Good. You're welcome.
BANFIELD: I will give you the benefit of the doubt and I understand where you got that impression, but we are a family and a family we will remain. It's like "Duck Dynasty" folks, right here.
LEMON: I'm not part of that family. Don't include me in that. Over there. I'm sorry.
BANFIELD: Listen, I get -- it's a healthy conversation. It was about Monica Lewinsky at one point. And now, it's no longer.
LEMON: Yeah, that's a family I'm not interested in.