In the span of less than 24 hours, CNN anchor Don Lemon ended up with egg on his face not once, but twice in discussions relating to the shooting of unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last week.
Last night, Lemon was engaged in a talk with Van Jones, former green jobs advisor to President Obama, and conservative talking head Ben Ferguson over the use of automatic weapons as they relate to the protests in Ferguson. Lemon erroneously claimed that any American can go to the store and pick up an automatic weapon.
Ferguson quickly corrects him, stating that while semiautomatic weapons are legal, subject to a variety of state laws, automatic weapons, which can fire multiple rounds while the shooter holds down the trigger, are not. Lemon could have dropped it there, saying he had misspoke or simply admitting he was wrong (fat chance). But instead he doubled down on the assertion:
“Listen, during the theater shooting in Colorado, I was able to go and buy an automatic weapon, and I, you know, have maybe shot a gun, three, four times in my life. I don’t even live in Colorado. I think most people can go out and buy an automatic weapon. I don’t understand your argument there.”
Here’s the clip:
It’s certainly awkward, and also yet another sad example of a cable news talking head pretending to be an expert on something he knows little about. But we can perhaps forgive him, considering that semiautomatic weapons are also very dangerous and enable a person to shoot many rounds very quickly.
The day’s second snafu, however, makes Lemon look far worse.
Hip-hop artist Talib Kweli, most famous for his work with Mos Def as one half of the duo Black Star and for his 2002 solo hit “Get By,” came on CNN to discuss the aftermath of the Ferguson shooting with Lemon. But the interview quickly turned into a fiery screed against CNN’s coverage of the protests.
He names a story on CNN.com with the headline, “Ferguson streets were calm until bottles fly,” saying, “That’s inaccurate. I was there that night, you know what I’m saying? And that’s not what happened.”
At this point, Lemon interrupts him to suggest that perhaps Kweli was not nearby where the first bottles flew, and that’s why what he observed was different than what CNN and its witnesses had observed. Kweli asks Lemon to let him finish his story and then things devolve for about 30 seconds into each man cutting the other off and saying not much of anything. By the time Kweli says the following, however, Lemon and CNN have completely lost control of the interview:
“I would listen to you, if you had the decency — let me finish — if you had the decency to greet me. To greet me. To greet me. Alright, let me tell you what happened. You didn’t invite me, Nicole invited me, first of all. You came up, you came up, you didn’t even say nothing to me. You’re on your phone the whole time. You asked how to pronounce my name, and then you — you have no respect for who I am. So let me finish what I have to say, or I’m gonna leave.”
At that point, Lemon had no choice but to let Kweli share his perspective, which was presumably the whole point of bringing him on, right? Here’s Kweli’s take, in a nutshell:
“You know when the bottle flew? After the cops told me they’re gonna blow my effing head off.”
Watch the whole clip here: