CNN’s Don Lemon seemed to find himself in an uncomfortable position on Wednesday night, as the guest he invited to bolster his argument about slavery ended up contradicting him instead.
The talk show host made numerous claims about how the Constitution “valued” slaves — and, as his featured expert obliquely noted, Lemon manifestly got his facts wrong.
Don Lemon started his program by discussing comments made by Tennessee State Rep. Justin Lafferty, R-Knoxville, about the Three-Fifths Compromise. Then, he devoted a segment in the second hour of Wednesday’s “CNN Tonight” to the subject.
Lemon told his audience, incorrectly, that the Constitution “explicitly counted [slaves] as three-fifths of a free person, or three-fifths of a man, so that the slave states would be able to accrue more political power without having to count a slave as a full person.”
In fact, the Three-Fifths Compromise denied slave-owning states their request to count 100% of their slaves in the Census. Northerners wanted no slaves counted; Southerners wanted all slaves counted — with congressional delegates awarded accordingly. More slaves meant more political power for slave owners. To assure all 13 colonies ratified the U.S. Constitution, delegates brokered an agreement that only three-fifths of all slaves would be counted.
During unrehearsed remarks on Tuesday, Rep. Lafferty said the Three-Fifths Compromise represented “a bitter, bitter pill that haunts us today” — but we swallowed it “to lay the foundation for all this that we enjoy in this country.”
“The Three-Fifths Compromise was a direct effort to ensure that Southern states never got the population necessary to continue the practice of slavery everywhere else in the country,” Rep. Lafferty said. “By limiting the number of population in the count, they specifically limited the number of representatives that would be available in the slave-holding states, and they did it for the purpose of ending slavery.”
“That is what we’re dealing with right now,” Lemon said in his familiar mix of outrage and exasperation. “So, let’s get the facts now.”
But his guest — Peniel Joseph, a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin — subtly corrected the host in his very first sentence.
“The compromise is really the fact that Southern colonies actually wanted to count enslaved African-Americans as one person each for issues of representation,” Joseph said. “And the compromise was that they would be counted as three-fifths.”
Lemon began blinking rapidly and looking down.
Joseph added that what the compromise “did is actually give Southern, slave-holding states more proportional representation than their actual citizens who could vote.” But viewers had to read between the lines to realize that the Southern states did not get to add as many extra congressional seats as they wanted — that the Three-Fifths Compromise withheld 40% of the extra members of Congress that slaveholders requested to “represent” their slave population.
“The Three-Fifths Clause is a compromise to create the United States of America and have the Constitution ratified in 1787,” Joseph said, essentially agreeing with Lafferty.
Lemon abruptly ended the segment as soon as Joseph finished talking.
“I want to have you back to discuss this more,” Lemon said. “This conversation is going to continue.”
But the professor may not be as frequent a guest as Lemon lets on, unless he changes his ways. His crime? He showed too much independence, according to secret recordings of the network’s management.
When “any reporter on CNN” asks a question, “what they’re actually doing is they’re telling the person what to say. … It’s always like leading them in a direction before they even open their mouths,” CNN Technical Director Charlie Chester told James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas. “And the only people that we let on the air, for the most part, are people that have a proven track record of taking the bait.”
A Tennessee lawmaker falsely suggested the infamous and racist 3/5ths compromise was to help end slavery.
@donlemon gets the facts from Peniel Joseph, a professor of history. Watch: pic.twitter.com/SkxbtNUM5h
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) May 6, 2021
Joseph didn’t take the bait — unlike fellow CNN host Chris Cuomo, who began the 10 p.m. hand-off by hinting at a conspiracy behind Republicans accurately discussing history.
“They are bringing up this Three-Fifths Compromise stuff for a reason,” Cuomo said. “It’s something pernicious and wicked that they’re trying to do.”
“Is it white supremacy? What is it?” asked Don Lemon.
“I don’t know what their end game is,” Cuomo admitted.
Lemon’s coverage also left his viewers none the wiser about U.S. history, or Republicans’ comments about it — even after his guest corrected him on the air.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.