Don Lemon Puts Russell Simmons and Other Race-Baiters in Their Place

As NewsBusters has been reporting, CNN's Don Lemon has been taking a lot of heat from black media members as a result of his opinions concerning race relations in America.

On Saturday, in a very lengthy segment on CNN Newsroom, Lemon once again addressed his detractors doing so in a fashion that folks on both sides of this debate should be extremely proud of (video follows with commentary and full transcript at end of post):

Lemon began saying, "For a long time and especially around the Trayvon Martin case, everyone from the president to Trayvon's parents have said we need to talk more honestly and openly about race in this country. Then when we do, some people go berserk saying, no, that is not the conversation we want to have."

"Black folks, you cannot say that you own no part in some of the ills that plague our communities just as all white people can't say they have no responsibility either," he continued. "It's not honest and it's not constructive. You cannot control the conversation nor call people names like racist because they may not share your view. Nor can you constantly cast blame because then no one listens and nothing gets accomplished."

Lemon nicely mixed in a video clip of the late Martin Luther King Jr. saying, "If the Negro is to be free he must move down to the inner resources of his own soul and sign with a pen and ink of self-assertive manhood his own emancipation proclamation!"

After it was done, Lemon said, "Again, not a lesson on fixing, changing, or ending racism. The message is self-awareness and getting your mind right."

Next was a clip of the late Malcolm X saying, "If our people could be -- if we could be cured, of our slave mentality that was indoctrinated into us during slavery we would realize that just as the white man can do these things for himself and his kind, we can get together in unity and harmony and do the same thing for ourselves and our kind."

When Malcolm X finished, Lemon said, "No racism fixed there or blame. Just a suggestion on how to combat slave mentality. So, while you might think my five points are too simple, some of you, some of the world's most powerful people don't and said it more bluntly than I did."


Michelle Obama was next up saying in a clip, "As my husband has said often, please, stand up and reject the slander that says a black child with a book is trying to act white" followed by one of her husband saying, "Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing. But, one of the things that all of you have learned over the last four years is there's no longer any room for excuses."

"And even if you do all of the right things, and make a billion dollars like Oprah, you will probably still face discrimination," Lemon remarked obviously referring to recent revelations by Winfrey of poor treatment by a Swiss shopkeeper. "Welcome to life."

Comedian Bill Cosby was next on the docket saying, "They must realize that the revolution is in their apartment now. The revolution is in their house, their neighborhood, and then they can fight strongly, clearly the systemic and institutional racism."

Whoever thought of using this clips - whether Lemon or his producers - was brilliant.

Five quotes from five prominent members of the black community - two of them obviously no longer with us - making comments quite similar to what got Lemon in trouble.

How is it possible that Lemon could have been lambasted by various black media members for saying basically the same things as King, Malcolm X, Crosby, and both Obamas?

Doesn't make sense in the year 2013, does it?

But Lemon wasn't done, for next he addressed hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons who's been one of Lemon's most outspoken detractors.


"I'm going to respond and I'm going to take the high road at the same time by not calling you names and simply addressing your points. And just to be clear before I start here I have asked you on this program on CNN several times to discuss the issues I have addressed. I have invited you again tonight but you declined again. That is fine. But don't throw stones and hide your hand."

Interesting that Simmons refuses to go on TV to face the person he's attacked. Doesn't say much for him, does it?

"Russell Simmons," Lemon continued, "we are in a crisis right now and you of all people need to understand what I'm saying and understand what you're doing. Because of what you do and who you are, you have much more influence on young people of all races than I do."

No question about that. Simmons has a business empire now between his music and movie production companies, clothing line, magazine, advertising agency, and cash card operation.

With an estimated net worth of $350 million, Simmons is far more powerful than Lemon could ever dream of being.

"It shouldn't matter if someone is black, white, brown, purple, green, democrat, or Republican," Lemon continued referring to Simmons' claim that he sounds like a conservative. "If the truth they speak is saving lives, then no matter their intentions or background, we should listen. Attack the problem, not the messenger."

Indeed.

Lemon brilliantly concluded the segment:

LEMON: Finally, you write in part, I want the black kids to grow up and be like you. I want them to know that their imagination is God inside of them. Russell, I really appreciate that, but I don't want black kids or kids of any race to be just like me. I want them to grow up to be better than me. That's what my parents wanted for me. And their parents wanted for them. And as we approach the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington, we should all realize that it's what those brave men and women who risked their lives for our freedom and equality wanted for us. They fought for us and generations to come to be better than them, not to be illiterate or deadbeat dads or criminals. We must stop the blame for things that we can change ourselves and, again, as the first African-American president of the United States says, no more excuses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was. Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination. And, moreover, you have to remember that whatever you've gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured, and they overcame them, and if they overcame them, you can overcome them, too.

Nice! Bravo!


As our friends at Twitchy reported, Lemon received both praise and attacks on Twitter.

Unfortunately, the usual suspects in the liberal media were hot on his trail with MSNBC's Toure Neblett commenting:

  • Don Lemon is now on CNN doubling down on victim blaming.
  • Don Lemon reveals that saggin backwards is niggas.
  • Don insists on making the discussion mind numbingly simplistic.
  • Has Don never heard of internalized bias, wealth inequality, white privilege, structural racism--some of the real drivers of the problems?
  • The "personal responsibility" scolders like Don Lemon ignore that intergenerational class mobility is nearly impossible in modern America.
  • Don blaming Black people for our problems doesn't mean he's tough or honest or smart. It reveals him as short sighted & cowardly.

Simmons also responded, but with far greater civility than Neblett:

  • Hey @DonLemonCNN -- I want to formally apologize for calling you a "slave" - I just think you're promoting the wrong message.
  • happy to be on ur show - just cuz I wasn't available one day, doesn't mean I won't ever do ur show. I respect u, just disagree with u.
  • been on Hannity and O'Reilly countless times, and although I disagree with most everything out of their mouths, I consider them my friends.
  • I'm glad you responded to my letter...it's a healthy debate.
  • but, remember we need to deal with root of suffering of our community before we tell yng ppl to not say the n-word or pull up their pants.
  • and lastly, after the George Zimmerman verdict, the conversation about black America should NOT be about the n-word and the sagging pants.

I guess that's a start.

I sincerely look forward to Simmons appearing with Lemon, and congratulate the CNN host for the marvelous work he's doing on this issue.

Takes a lot of guts, Don. I think another BRAVO is in order!

Here's the full transcript:

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It's good to be back on the air. I was away last weekend so I could not talk about this. So everyone sit down and let's talk. Because for a long time and especially around the Trayvon Martin case, everyone from the president to Trayvon's parents have said we need to talk more honestly and openly about race in this country. Then when we do, some people go berserk saying, no, that is not the conversation we want to have.

Well, that's not being open, nor honest, is it? If we're going to have those conversations, then we need to address all the issues that go with it. And part of that, the very first part, is personal responsibility. Black folks, you cannot say that you own no part in some of the ills that plague our communities just as all white people can't say they have no responsibility either. It's not honest and it's not constructive. You cannot control the conversation nor call people names like racist because they may not share your view. Nor can you constantly cast blame because then no one listens and nothing gets accomplished.

And more importantly, beyond discrimination, and beyond profiling, more lives are being snuffed out daily in our communities when our kids are shooting each other. It is a crisis. We are in a crisis. It is time now for no talking points.

So tonight, no more excuses. In my last "no talking points" segment I suggested five things some of the black community could use to fix some of our own problems. Dress appropriately. Stop using the "n" word. Respect where you live. Finish school. And plan for a child or stop having them out of wedlock. These are by no means cures for racism or bigotry. Yet the response was so overwhelming I was even asked about it on "the View."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: What I was saying was not how you end racism. I was saying self-empowerment. How you help yourself because you have to -- there are issues in the African-American community that go beyond white people. Right? You can fix things yourself. And those are things that we should do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, to suggest that that conversation was about how to end racism is disingenuous at the very least and the deflection. Because there are always things that we can do to help improve our own condition as individuals or a group.

So, I'm not going to make excuses by deflecting attention to a false narrative or equivalent. Oh, well white people do this! I didn't do that last time on this subject and now two weeks later people are still talking about it. Good. Mission accomplished.

Russell Simmons, the hip hop mogul, even wrote me an open letter. And today I wrote him one back. I'm going to get to that in a second.

Most people understood what I meant and understand the concept of personal responsibility, personal determination, self-knowledge. But for those who don't, I will let Dr. King explain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. ACTIVIST: I have come here tonight and plead with you. Believe in yourself and believe that you are somebody. I said to the group last night nobody else can do this for us. No document can do this for us. No emancipation proclamation can do this for us. No (INAUDIBLE) civil rights field can do this for us. If the Negro is to be free he must move down to the inner resources of his own soul and sign with a pen and ink of self-assertive manhood his own emancipation proclamation!

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Again, not a lesson on fixing, changing, or ending racism. The message is, self-awareness and getting your mind right. Though a little bit more radical, Malcolm X had the same message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MALCOLM X, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: The desegregation decisions and other type of legislation and Supreme Court decision depends upon changing the white man's mind. The honorable Elijah Muhammad teaches us that our own mind has to be changed. We have to change our mind about ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In what way?

MALCOLM X: Well, so he teaches us the importance of moral reformation, knowledge of self. And for instance, that the average so- called Negro, he doesn't think that he can go into business and provide jobs for himself and because of this thinks he can only get a job from the white man or he can only get clothes from the white man or can only get food from the white man.

We follow the honorable Elijah Muhammad who taught that the same thing that the white man has done for himself and his kind, if our people could be -- if we could be cured, of our slave mentality that was indoctrinated into us during slavery we would realize that just as the white man can do these things for himself and his kind, we can get together in unity and harmony and do the same thing for ourselves and our kind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: No racism fixed there or blame. Just a suggestion on how to combat slave mentality. So, while you might think my five points are too simple, some of you, some of the world's most powerful people don't and said it more bluntly than I did. Here's your first lady.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: When it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can't be bothered. Today, instead of walking miles every day to school, they are sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or business leader, they're fantasizing about being a balers or rapper. As my husband has said often, please, stand up and reject the slander that says a black child with a book is trying to act white. Reject that.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And then a more forceful tone at a black college commencement address, here is her husband, the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. And I have to say, growing up, I made quite a few myself. Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing. But, one of the things that all of you have learned over the last four years is there's no longer any room for excuses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: And even if you do all of the right things, and make a billion dollars like Oprah, you will probably still face discrimination. Welcome to life.

However, the idea that discipline, respect, commitment, and education mean acting white is just ludicrous. Then, what is acting black? Bill Cosby has a lot to say about that mindset and how to fix it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL COSBY, ACTOR, COMEDIAN: The more we see it in the neighborhoods, the more we will accept it that we can't help it. And what we need to do is give people more of a confidence that they can. They must realize that the revolution is in their apartment now. The revolution is in their house, their neighborhood, and then they can fight strongly, clearly the systemic and institutional racism.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: And that brings me to Russell Simmons.

Russell, I'm glad you wrote the letter. Honestly I really am. Initially though I wasn't even going to respond to your letter, not because I think you completely missed the point, not because, like many of the other critics I thought you were just using the occasion as a promotion for one of your businesses, your Web site, but I wasn't going to address it because, quite honestly, it was hard to take you and it seriously after you called me derogatory names like slave on Twitter. That accomplishes nothing especially when lives are at stake.

That said, I'm going to respond and I'm going to take the high road at the same time by not calling you names and simply addressing your points. And just to be clear before I start here I have asked you on this program on CNN several times to discuss the issues I have addressed. I have invited you again tonight but you declined again. That is fine. But don't throw stones and hide your hand.

Russell Simmons, we are in a crisis right now and you of all people need to understand what I'm saying and understand what you're doing. Because of what you do and who you are, you have much more influence on young people of all races than I do.

So, first. You say I sound like conservative hosts or pulling strings writing, you write this, conservatives love when we blame ourselves for the conditions that have destroyed the fabric of the black community.

My response is, you should take that up with a conservative or a liberal or someone who is concerned about political affiliation in this particular situation. That does not save lives. It shouldn't matter if someone is black, white, brown, purple, green, democrat, or Republican. If the truth they speak is saving lives, then no matter their intentions or background, we should listen, attack the problem, not the messenger.

You also write, I can't accept that you would single out black teenagers as the cause of their own demise because they don't speak the King's English or where belts around their waist bands.

That really makes me question whether you even watch the segment or even wrote the letter yourself because I never blamed anyone for their own demise. I never pinned it on any teenagers, on anybody. Nor did I mention the King's English. I did, however, mention the "n" word.

You also wrote, young people sagging their pants today is no different than young people rocking afros or platform shoes in the '60s and '70s.

Russell, afros came out of the struggle of the after American civil rights movement. The dashiki is a traditional form of African dress.

Sagging, Russell, the hip hop community which you helped established, dropped the G on the word so that spelled backwards the word reads n- i-g-g-a-s. It came from Riker's island in New York, one of the largest attention centers in the U.S. It was originally called wearing your pants Riker's style.

When you went in you turned in your belt, your shoe laces, and the only shirt the jail provided was a white double XXL-shirt. Are you equating dressing like a criminal to African pride? Are you saying it is OK to perpetuate the negative stereotype of young, black men as convicts, criminals, prisoners? How does that enhance their lives or society as a whole?

I do give you, Russell Simmons, and some of the hip hop and rap community credit for trying to clean up your act. Some like J. Cole and Kanye West are now rapping about social issues like the prison industrial complex. More of that, please. We welcome that. Everyone does. But you're not off the hook.

Finally, you write in part, I want the black kids to grow up and be like you. I want them to know that their imagination is God inside of them. Russell, I really appreciate that, but I don't want black kids or kids of any race to be just like me. I want them to grow up to be better than me. That's what my parents wanted for me. And their parents wanted for them. And as we approach the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington, we should all realize that it's what those brave men and women who risked their lives for our freedom and equality wanted for us. They fought for us and generations to come to be better than them, not to be illiterate or deadbeat dads or criminals. We must stop the blame for things that we can change ourselves and, again, as the first African-American president of the United States says, no more excuses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was. Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination. And, moreover, you have to remember that whatever you've gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured, and they overcame them, and if they overcame them, you can overcome them, too.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Thank you, Mr. President. That's tonight's "No Talking Points."
 

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.