Noel Sheppard and Dana Loesch Discuss the N-word With CNN's Don Lemon
As NewsBusters previously reported, CNN's Don Lemon two Saturdays ago advocated journalists actually say the N-word in news reports rather than the more politically correct, sanitized version we've grown accustomed to in recent years.
On Sunday, I chatted with Lemon about this issue - along with Big Journalism's Dana Loesch - on CNN Newsroom (video follows with transcript and lengthy commentary):
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, each Saturday night on this network we have those adult conversations that you have at home with your family or with your friends, but you don't necessarily see them on television. Case in point, a discussion we had last Saturday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: When I said that word, and I'm going to say it again, the "n" word, I just -- I hate saying the "n" word. I think it takes the value out of what that word really means, especially when we're reporting it, and I don't care what color the reporter is. I think someone should say that person should call someone nigger instead of saying the n word because I think it sanitizes it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Why did I say that? Because after, just about everybody jump on the n word band wagon.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An anchor at CNN.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's an African-American which is an important distinction?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, no. He's a reporter. No, he's a reporter, and what reporters do is they report the news, and every time you make it the "n" word, it's cute.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like the "n" word, but, see, I feel very strongly about the word. Do not eliminate it. It's part of our history. And every time people try to sort of make it sound better or more acceptable, let's call it what it is.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO SHOW HOST: There's a CNN anchor, guy's name is Don Lemon. I don't know if I want to air the sound bite. I really -- you're making the case that it's inappropriate to say quote "n" word, unquote, just go ahead and use the "n" word.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don Lemon says he doesn't support it in music or use casually but in terms of reporting what someone said. So, those are two different things. And I think you've got a point there.
LEMON: That brings us to tonight's "no talking points."
All right. Here we go. The "n" word the so-called liberal media and the Trayvon Martin coverage. Conservative Dana Loesch is here. She is from "Big Journalism" and a CNN contributor and conservative Noel Sheppard, associate editor from "NewsBusters."
OK, Noel. Let's go for it here. Here's what you wrote after you heard me say that. You said a CNN host is advocating the previously offensive term be used in all reports rather than the politically correct one. With racial tensions being ginned up by irresponsible so-called journalists, the "n" word suddenly sanitizes what that word says, what that word really means. As "NewsBusters" asked hours ago, can the "n" word now be used on CNN if it dramatizes racism? Lemon certainly thinks so."
All right, Noel. You have written before that the media is trying to help the president by constantly bringing up race. Come on.
NOEL SHEPPARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, NEWSBUSTERS: Yes, sir.
LEMON: Isn't that a stretch?
SHEPPARD: No, I don't think so at all, and let's remember that even former president Bill Clinton in 2008 felt that the media conceivably was using the race card against his wife when she was running against Obama. So, no, I don't think that's a stretch at all.
Let's also remind your viewers that what occurred about 18 hours after you made that statement on Saturday evening, on Sunday in the middle of Easter Sunday at 2:30 eastern time right in the afternoon of Easter Sunday national correspondent for CNN Susan Candiotti not only said the "n" word specifically but she also said the "f" word specifically prior.
So, it seemed a little bit peculiar to me and I think, Don, it seemed peculiar to a number of folks that suddenly CNN seems to be saying it's acceptable to use this when in the media for, what, a decade, a couple of decades, we weren't allowed to say that word, so why suddenly is it acceptable?
For more on this, readers should see, "CNN Correspondent Says 'F--king N--ger' On The Air." Let's continue:
LEMON: Well. Here's the thing, Noel. I'm not here to criticize or defend my colleague, what she said was separate and apart and that's her own business.
SHEPPARD: I appreciate that.
LEMON: But my point was -- my point was more about political correctness run amuck which has been the cornerstone of conservatism. And you wrote this in 2010 when a Kentucky Fried Chicken ad was pulled in Australia after cries of racism in the US.
Now, remember my point is more about political correctness run amuck. And so you said "for our PC police to now be enforcing its ignorant standards from thousands of miles away should scare the heck out of folks on both sides of the aisle."
So Noel, speaking out against political correctness is OK when you do it, but not when I do it?
Well, let's get the context of my January 2010 piece "US Political Correctness Gets Australian KFC Ad Pulled For Racism" straight:
Yum Brands Inc, the owner of fastfood chain Kentucky Fried Chicken, recently launched a commercial series in Australia called "KFC's Cricket Survival Guide."
In it, spokesman "Mick" gives Aussies "tips on how to get through this summer of cricket."
This was actually part of an Australian campaign called The Cricket Survival Guide which provided tongue-in-cheek advice to Australian cricket fans during the 2009/2010 cricket season.
In this particular ad, Mick was seated in the West Indian side of a cricket match, and to befriend the rival crowd, he offered them some fried chicken. This might appear racist in America, but as an Aussie commented at YouTube:
Americans might think this is racist because black people eating fried chicken is a stereotype that exists in their country. This ad was shown during cricket matches between Australia and the West Indies. If England had been playing at the time, the ad would have shown the bloke feeding chicken to the Barmy Army to make them sit down and shut up. There's no racism intended or perceived in Australia. The complaints I've seen have come from Americans guilty about [sic] they treat people in their country.
As such, in this instance it was OUR PC police dictating what should be acceptable to folks of a different culture on the other side of the planet. How this at all relates to American journalists using the N-word is beyond me.
It was further curious that Lemon raised this because had my appearance on Saturday's CNN Newsroom not been cut short by tornado coverage, we were supposed to talk about Burger King's new commercial featuring pop singer Mary J. Blige promoting fried chicken and how that's been pulled supposedly for its racism.
As I told Lemon's producer, I was going to take the position that this was absurd, and that the commercial seemed totally charming to me. I imagined Lemon would have agreed.
But let's see how I responded Sunday evening:
SHEPPARD: No, because I think we're in a little bit of a different environment now. I mean this is 2012. We're in an election year, and the nation is on the precipice of conceivably a very, very serious racial tension or maybe even -- heck, maybe even a race war as a result of the Trayvon Martin shooting, as a result of the shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
And we're in an election year where the first black president is looking for re-election. So I like having this discussion, Don. I like it tremendously. I'm not sure right now seven months before an election and in the midst of all of this racial strife as a result of Trayvon Martin, the Tulsa shootings, I'm not sure this is the right time. I think maybe we wait until after the election. Maybe we wait until after the trial is done and we know what the net result is from Florida. I'm not sure it's the right time now.
LEMON: And what's interesting that it sounds like what you're saying we have to - we should pick and choose the topics rather than let the news dictate what the topics are, but here my thing. I think I have to say a race war. I think that's a bit overblown. I don't think we're on the verge of any race war here. I think we're beyond that in the United States. But I will get back to you, Noel, n just a second.
SHEPPARD: If I may, Don. I saw Michael Eric Tyson on --
SHEPPARD: Dyson, excuse me, Dyson on "Face the Nation" today with Bob Schieffer. And he was saying that if Zimmerman is found innocent, there's going to be a lot - there is going to be a lot of problems. There's going to be a lot of uprisings so it's not just me saying that this is possible, Don.
For the record, here's what was said on Sunday's Face the Nation:
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: But look at the role of race even in this. The collection of evidence has been infected by the virus of racism because it was presumed that Trayvon was the guilty partner here. We didn`t look, perhaps, at the angle of the bullet from the gun, a paraffin test on Mr. Zimmerman.
The collection of evidence itself has been so contaminated by the preexisting conditions of racism that we can`t even collect enough proof to prove, perhaps, if this is the case, that Mr. Zimmerman acted with reckless disregard for this young man`s life.
TOURE: I mean, Trayvon has tested-- toxicology to see if he`s on drugs, and George Zimmerman is not right away. But I mean, if this is found not guilty, there will be tremendous, lasting pain, at least in black America, behind the situation. It will be a scar on the soul of America.
So hours before I talked to Lemon, Dyson said the "evidence has been infected by the virus of racism" and "so contaminated by the preexisting conditions of racism that we can't even collect enough proof to prove, perhaps, if this is the case, that Mr. Zimmerman acted with reckless disregard for this young man's life."
As such, in Dyson's view, if Zimmerman is found not guilty, it's because of racism in the Sanford Police Department NOT his innocence.
Toure followed this up by saying, "If this is found not guilty, there will be tremendous, lasting pain, at least in black America, behind the situation. It will be a scar on the soul of America."
Although the totality of their comments Sunday didn't rise to the level of predicting a race war, the inflammatory nature of the entire discussion certainly led this viewer to believe "there is going to be a lot of problems" and potential "uprisings" if Zimmerman isn't convicted.
And we certainly shouldn't ignore calls by the New Black Panther Party for a race war as a result of this issue as well as the deplorable actions of various high-profile entertainers like filmmaker Spike Lee.
But Lemon on Sunday wasn't connecting these dots the same way I was:
LEMON: But I don't think anyone is saying there's going to be a race war.
SHEPPARD: I hope not.
LEMON: And we need it to others to figure out whether Zimmerman is guilty or innocent. That's up to the courts and to the justices and figure out but --
LEMON: Go ahead, Dana.
DANA LOESCH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I want to chime in on that, Don, because I think oddly enough you and I may kind of agree on something here, if I can elaborate.
LOESCH: See. I'm one of the people -- I'm kind of a free speech purist myself and I really believe if people want to fly their freak flag go ahead and fly it and let's decide a judge whether or not you want to have to do anything to do with that person.
But, the same time when you talking about seeing the "n" word. I find the word absolutely just disgusting and gross that turns my stomach. I feel the same way when I see some of the rhetoric that you know I seen a lot that comes from the left on the war on women. When I see women like Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann or Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Clayfish of Wisconsin called a see you next Tuesday by a liberal radio talk host who are, you know, by people on HBO or so on and so forth.
So, it's kind of similar to that. And I look at it when I see that word used to describe conservative women. I look at it as I don't want it censored because I want society to feel the full sting of that have word that's being used to describe women simply because they have a different political ideology than the people using the words to describe them.
LEMON: Dana, listen, I think -- I'd love having this conversation with conservatives, and I think there is -- I am a free speech person as well. But, I think that everything is about context and what I said was in the reporting of a story, and if it was --
LOESCH: I'm not disputing that at all. I'm actually kind of agreeing that with you, the full sting of a word.
LEMON: Yeah, I think your talk show host and you're not a journalist in that way then you shouldn't be saying that word freely purely in the reporting of a story. But, I just want to say something here, just to get something clear as best you're saying all of a sudden CNN is advocating the use of the "n" word. It is not the first time the board is been use in this network. I said it back in 2011, who we're talking about Rick Perry's hunting camp.
Play it for me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Listen. Tonight Governor Rick Perry of Texas is having to respond to his association with the most poisonous word in the English language nigger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: It's not the first time I'll say it before. And the context of a story and I'll saying it again I believe that the context of a story you should be able to use it. And Dana --
LEMON: It's wasn't because Rick Perry is a Republican. It's because he had a camp with that name on it and I don't understand how saying that is bringing up racism to help President Obama.
Before we get to Loesch's response, let's be clear that the reason why the Washington Post published this 3,000-word hit piece in October was because Perry was rising in the polls and Democrats were concerned about his popularity. News outlets such as CNN piled on because they saw this as an opportunity to trash one of Obama's potential contenders.
What Lemon left out Sunday evening when he brought this matter up as a supposed example of his impartiality was that in that segment he hosted the day after the Post piece came out, he asked his guests, "Can a candidate recover once they've been associated with a controversy over the word n-gger?”
I wrote at the time:
As Lemon observed, "We are saying the word for a reason because I think if you don't say it, you actually sanitize it, right?"
So for this story, the folks at CNN felt it was important to enunciate the entire offensive epithet despite it being "difficult to imagine a more poisonous word in the English language."
It was also interesting for CNN's Cain to note the similarity to Allen's macaca controversy in 2006, and to therefore caution the host, "It's such an atomic bomb on a campaign that I just think we need to be very careful, and very responsible about how we treat this story...We just need to make sure we got everything right here."
But Lemon clearly wasn't interested in that.
Quite the contrary, he early on told his guests, "I don't want to get in to when the word was painted over, when the rock was moved, or what have you."
No, let's not discuss any of the facts concerning this issue like whether the Perrys owned or leased the property, or how long ago they painted over the word and eventually turned the rock over so it wouldn't be visible. Let's skip all those inconvenient details and instead discuss how devastating this is to Perry.
Lemon further tipped his hand when he pushed back on Cain's note of caution saying, "I just said being associated in a controversy, whether it's true or not -- I mean, that's tough to recover from."
"Whether it's true or not."
So Lemon wasn't concerned with the truth. He instead wanted to know how Perry recovers from a controversy irrespective of the facts.
Yet on Sunday, Lemon said, "It wasn't because Rick Perry is a Republican. It's because he had a camp with that name on it and I don't understand how saying that is bringing up racism to help President Obama."
No matter how you slice it, if you don't think the Post, CNN, Lemon, and all the other news outlets that feasted on this story for days last October weren't doing it to help President Obama, I've got some swampland for sale in Florida you should look at.
But taking this a step further, the one instance Lemon raised as an example of him having used the N-word in the past was specifically related to a Republican.
As I mentioned to Lemon on Twitter last week, he also discussed the use of the N-word in August 2010 when conservative radio host Dr. Laura got in trouble for saying it repeatedly on the air.
Could Lemon and his production crew come up with examples of him commenting about Democrats using this word and how they might survive as a result?
For instance, in 2009 it was revealed that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had made some racially insensitive remarks about candidate Barack Obama during the previous year's campaign.
A LexisNexis search revealed no instances of Lemon reporting this. If I'm wrong, I'd like to be shown such transcripts.
In 2007 when then Senator Joe Biden (D-Del.) made indelicate remarks about Obama being "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," Lemon did address this, but in a rather tongue-in-cheek fashion:
LEMON: Run for office, say something offensive, apologize, and try to move on. It's a cycle as old as politics itself. But the newest contender in the 2008 presidential race may hold the record for speed. All three of those steps in just 24 hours. CNN's Mary Snow has details.
After a clip of Biden's comments was played, as well as Obama's response and opinions from others, Lemon returned to offer the following:
LEMON: Biden's mea culpas continued last night on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I spoke to Barack today --
JON STEWART, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: I bet you did.
BIDEN: I also spoke to Jesse, and Al Sharpton. And I also --
STEWART: And Michael Jordan and anybody you could get your hands on.
BIDEN: No, no, no.
STEWART: The Jackson 5, who else?
BIDEN: Michael didn't call me.
BIDEN: Look, what I was attempting to be was, not very artfully, is complimentary. This is an incredible guy, this is a phenomenon. This guy is -- and look, the other part of this thing is -- the word that got me in trouble is using the word "clean". I should have said "fresh". I meant he's got new ideas, he's a new guy on the block.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KYRA PHILLIPS, CO-ANCHOR: Straight ahead, lose weight, win votes, a weighty political topic. It's fresh right here from the CNN NEWSROOM.
LEMON: And clean.
According to LexisNexis, this was the only report Lemon did on Biden's racially insensitive comments about Obama.
I guess when a Democrat makes a racist comment about African-Americans, Lemon thinks it's funny. If only he felt that way when a Republican misspeaks.
If there are any incidents of Lemon excoriating a Democrat for racially insensitive behavior, I'd love for him or his staff to furnish me the transcript(s) and I will be happy to add them in an update.
LOESCH: Right. And I'm going to agree on one point. I think that the person who own the land that Rick Perry leased, because it's kind of an old story, I think the person who owned the land that Rick Perry lease that had actually had that word described on the rock that the Perry family painted over, it is disgusting. It is horrible. They don't right to paint over. It sickens me just like it sickens me when I hear some of the rhetoric used to describe conservative women. I mean. You know, when someone calls you like I said of see you next Tuesday, I agree with you. You're reporting it in the context of a story, you want people to know what's being said, just like I want people to know.
SHEPPARD: By the way, Don. I have to say I just got the acronym "C U Next Tuesday." That was going beyond me.
LEMON: All right. Listen. I want to talk to you about something too as well, Dana. I'm not going to let you off unless you and I agreed on this. But you're a contributing editor for the late Andrew Breitbart's big journalism Web site. You guys wrote that CNN anchor Don Lemon couldn't bring himself to criticize filmmakers Spike Lee for tweeting out the wrong address of an oddly couple in the Trayvon Martin coverage. Here's the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: The bigger question maybe here, even if that information was true, why you would you send it out, why would you re-tweet it?
LEMON: Yes, yes. All right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's someone's address.
LEMON: Yes, I know, I know, I know. Let's move on now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, in order to get myself -- not to get in trouble on television, I was so disgusted by Spike Lee what he did. I couldn't find the words appropriate for TV. I think most people got that. In other reports I called his actions disgusting. Why didn't anyone from your side contact me, and I'm saying this on behalf of other journalists who find themselves the victims of things like this. Why didn't you contact me for response, is that fair? Is that really big journalism?
LOESCH: Well, that, you'd have to ask John Nolte with that. He is my colleague over at breitbart.com and he was the one who wrote that piece. I just read it actually the other day, no offense to John who may be watching. But I just -- because there's so many editors over there. I actually just read that the other day.
And, you know, maybe that didn't come across that you had condemned it earlier or something like that. But I think we can all agree that, you know, Spike Lee, having done something like that is pretty nasty. And I'm glad to hear that -- again, we're agreeing. You are totally agreeing with us that it was pretty classless for him to do that. So, that's cool.
LEMON: Wow. Why can't we all just get along?
LOESCH: I'm converting you, Don. It's happening.
LEMON: No, no. And Dana, seriously, when you guys -- my Twitter feed is going crazy. People are saying it's a great conversation to have. Thank you all. We don't have to agree and we don't have to castigate each other just because we don't agree. Thank you, guys, OK?
SHEPPARD: Thank you for having us.
LEMON: Thank you.
OK. So, here's tonight's no talking points point.
Dana and I are friendly. We are not friends. We are friendly. Same thing with Noel and I. We had, you know, go back and forth on Twitter. I don't hate them because they are conservatives. I don't hate anyone. I don't judge them for it either. I really don't judge anyone.
But what I do find disturbing quite honestly is they and others like them, and even some Democrats, even some Democrats assume, that because this network doesn't side with political parties that that automatically makes it a quote "liberal network."
CNN doesn't side with political parties?
For decades the Media Research Center has documented CNN's liberal bias. This was so apparent during the '90s that many Americans called it the Clinton News Network.
More recently, during the 2008 campaign, CNN like virtually every news outlet in the nation gave candidate Obama a pass for his connections to the America-hating Rev. Jeremiah Wright, convicted real estate developer Tony Rezko, as well as domestic terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn.
As NewsBusters reported last November, CNN ran more stories about former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain's sexual harassment allegations in the six days following Politico breaking the story than they did Obama's ties to Ayers, Dohrn, Rezko, and Wright combined throughout the entire 2007-2008 campaign.
They also seemed woefully disinterested in his tremendously undistinguished career as a state and U.S. senator.
If CNN had properly vetted the junior senator from Illinois, Hillary Clinton would have likely sealed the Democratic nomination for president by Super Tuesday in February 2008.
Beyond this, in 2009, Chris Plante, a former CNN correspondent, said the reason Lou Dobbs left the network was because of its liberal bias.
Lemon clearly disagrees:
LEMON: I work here. Nothing could be further from the truth. And what I also find personally disturbing is that the same people assume I'm liberal or a shield for President Obama or for Democrats just because I'm on CNN or because I'm African-American or because I don't publicly wear my political affiliation on my sleeve.
We all know what they say about assuming. Makes you know what out of you and me. In this case it's also short sighted and in itself profiling, and that's tonight's "no talking points."
Well, yes, people assume folks that work for CNN are liberal - because this network has shown itself for decades to support Democrat politicians and candidates as well as left-wing policies, programs, and causes. Lemon might deny this, but it's irrefutable.
The problem is these folks want to hide behind a veil of impartiality by concealing who they actually vote for.
On Sunday before airtime, Lemon came on the line with Dana and me for some friendly chit-chat. I asked him who he voted for in 2008. He refused to answer, and said that he keeps his votes to himself.
That's fair, but I quite imagine given his age that he voted for Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton twice, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama.
Based upon positions he's taken on the air, I doubt very highly that he's ever voted for a Republican on a national ticket. I frankly doubt a meaningful percentage of CNN's on-air talent has ever voted for a Republican on a national ticket.
If that's profiling, so be it. I can easily be proved wrong by CNN releasing such statistics on its employees but doubt very highly that would ever happen.
As for racial profiling to assume voting habits, for a CNN anchor to be offended by this is absurd. CNN every election publishes exit polls that address votes by demographic groups including race.
Is it therefore racist or profiling to "assume" a black person is liberal when the historical voting patterns of this demographic since the '60s have been for Democratic candidates?
Hardly, and Lemon should know better.
But another indication of just how liberal CNN is comes from the reaction the network's viewers had to Dana and me being on Lemon's show.
The hate-tweets Dana and I received the two evenings we were on was deplorable with some telling Lemon that having us as guests reduced his credibility.
If CNN is so neutral, why do its viewers go nuts when conservatives are in attendance?
Also of note, Lemon made a big issue about Dana and me being conservatives. When he introduces his liberal guests, does he tell his audience they're liberal? That certainly wasn't the case Sunday evening.
In the end, I very much appreciate Lemon inviting Dana and me on, and look forward to more such discussions in the future.
Frankly, I had a blast and think Don did as well.
Regardless of the detractors, I think the kind of conversation the three of us had Saturday and Sunday evening is needed in this country, but think they can be more fruitful if everyone involved is more honest about their true political leanings. That his guests are conservatives should be far less important than them being Americans.
There also has to be a greater willingness to accept that racism isn't only a white problem or a conservative problem.
Racism isn't exclusive to one Party or one demographic group. We can't conquer it by pointing fingers at others without recognizing that it's everyone's fault just as much as it's everyone's problem.
I truly believe this is where media have failed and failed miserably because most news outlets seem fixated on reporting on race issues from only one side and do so to further their own political agenda.
Only when this stops will America become a truly tolerant society free of all bigotry including towards political orientation.