CNN anchor Don Lemon is the target of a petition drive to get him fired, after he refused to rush to judgment on the viral video showing Columbia, South Carolina, deputy Ben Fields roughly dealing with a non-compliant student at Spring Valley High School.
Over 30,000 people have signed the petition that takes aim at Lemon by saying:
Since the tragic incident of Trayvon Martin in 2012, CNN anchor Don Lemon has consistently antagonized and defamed the characteristics of African-Americans on the national scale in his mass communications. From the holding of the “N” word sign before the national audience to disrespecting the Mayor of Baltimore to his most recent comments of the unfortunate incident where a student was removed from her chair like a rag-doll by a police officer, Mr. Lemon has avoided the chance to state the obvious: the challenges that face African-Americans are real and that solutions need to be found.
The angry reaction came after a CNN segment that aired just after the video had come to light. In the segment, Lemon avoided rushing to judgment, saying:
I don’t know. It does look disturbing. The part that is most disturbing to me is seeing him throwing her around. I’ve looked at it over and over again. As far as the desk going over, I don’t know if that fell over because she didn’t want to get up or he pushed it.
I think there’s context to everything. I’d like to see what happened before and afterwards.
I agree with everyone including the commissioner and including Tom. It does look horrible. It does look like there’s no excuse for what he’s doing to her, but again, we don’t know. As the commissioner says, this only shows a small slice in time.
Another guest, Sunny Hostin lit into Lemon immediately, saying, “Are you kidding me?!?” Ms. Hostin, an attorney who provides legal analyst for CNN, barked at Lemon, “I don’t need to know more!”
Lemon responded calmly by suggesting that Hostin should want to know more.
Even though Lemon judged the video as “disturbing and horrible,” ironically, the petition against him ends by advocating for journalism to “present the facts and not judge, defame or antagonize.” The petition continues:
Mr. Lemon has failed his responsibility because he seems to forget the true essence of journalism: to present the facts and not judge, defame or antagonize. We, the people, want a journalist and an anchor that will not be afraid to accept the facts that are occurring within the African-American community and who will encourage our people the same way that person will encourage others across the board. We, the people, have no confidence in Mr. Lemon’s ability to do that. Therefore, we are asking CNN to remove him from his position.
CNN has defended the anchor, according to The New York Times:
A CNN spokeswoman said Mr. Lemon “did not diminish the severity of what happened to the young woman.”
“He clearly said it was disturbing and horrible,” the spokeswoman continued. “He was doing what journalists always do — seek information and context.”’
Deputy Fields was fired. Spring Valley High School students staged a demonstation in his support, however.
Follow investigative reporter and Citizen Journalism Boot Camp instructor Lee Stranahan on Twitter at @Stranahan.