The decade's most triggering comedy
CNN cut ties with longtime anchor Don Lemon on Monday, and according to a report from The New York Times, a testy debate with Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy might have been what pushed the network over the edge.
The Times reported on Monday that the contentious segment — during which Lemon accused Ramaswamy of “race-splaining” and informed the GOP candidate that he was not equipped to discuss Civil Rights because he was not black — had left several in leadership at CNN “exasperated.”
The debate began with comments Ramaswamy made at the recent National Rifle Association (NRA) convention, in which he detailed the beginnings of gun control in the United States as a means used by Democrats to prevent black Americans from exercising constitutional rights once the Civil War was over.
“Southern states passed anti-gun laws that stopped black people from owning guns. The Democrat Party then, as in now, wanted to put them back in chains,” Ramaswamy said.
“CNN This Morning” host Poppy Harlow mentioned the comments, asking Ramaswamy to clarify — and he said that he was referencing President Joe Biden’s claim that Republicans wanted to put black Americans “back in chains” but that it was Democratic policies destroying the nuclear family that had actually accomplished it.
Zeroing in on former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” and war on poverty, Ramaswamy argued that financial incentives taking fathers out of homes — particularly in minority communities — had only served to exacerbate the problem.
The conversation quickly veered off course as Lemon joined in, saying, “I don’t really see what one has to do with the other, especially considering, and using the Civil War to talk about black Americans. That war was not fought for black people to have guns. That’s — that’s — that’s not —”
Ramaswamy pushed back, saying that the Civil War had been about black Americans gaining freedom — but argued that because of laws implemented by Democrats after the war, it was not until the right of black Americans to bear arms was recognized that the other rights could be fully felt.
“But black people still aren’t allowed to enjoy the freedoms —” Lemon objected.
“I disagree with you on that,” Ramaswamy objected, adding, “I think you’re doing a disservice to our country, by failing to recognize the fact that [black Americans] have equality under the law. ”
“When you are in black skin and you live in this country, then you can disagree with me. But we’re not. You mentioned in there that we have three different shades of melanin —” Lemon continued to argue.
Ramaswamy said that regardless of skin color, Americans should be able to have conversations about race and about how far the United States had come in addressing the issue.
“I think for you to compare it to 1864, I think it’s insulting to black people. It’s insulting to me as an African American. I don’t want to sit here and argue with you because it’s infuriating for you to put that — to put those things together. It’s not right. Your telling of history is wrong. You’re —” Lemon continued.
“What part of the history was wrong?” Ramaswamy asked.
“You’re making people think that the Civil War was fought for black people, only for black people to get guns, and for black people to have —” Lemon kept going.
“The Civil War was fought for black people in this country to get freedoms, a noble mission. And I think that even after even after we succeeded, we had to actually secure those freedoms,” Ramaswamy clarified.
Lemon continued to argue, calling Ramaswamy’s telling of history “reductive” — pausing only to complain when a producer apparently began talking to him over his earpiece: “Hang on, please. I cannot keep a thought If you guys are talking in my ear.”
The debate continued, with Lemon asserting repeatedly that the Civil War had not been fought to help black Americans achieve gun rights and that the NRA had nothing to do with that anyway.
“Black people secured their freedoms after the Civil War, it is a historical fact, Don, just study it. Only after their second amendment rights were secured,” Ramaswamy objected, at which point Lemon once again said that he was getting the history wrong.
“The part that I find insulting is when you say today, black Americans don’t have those rights, after we have gone through the Civil Rights revolution in this country,” Ramaswamy said, and Lemon bristled.
“The fact that you are sitting here telling an African American about the rights and what you find insulting about the way I live in the skin I live in every day, and that you find it insulting that I have a different point of view of black and white, and what black people don’t have in this country and what black people do have,” he said.
“I think we should be able to express our views regardless of the color of our skin. We should have this debate without me regarding you as a black man, but me regarding you as a fellow citizen,” Ramaswamy replied.
“And you’re sitting here, whatever ethnicity you are, explaining to me what it’s like to be black in America,” Lemon objected again.
“Whatever ethnicity? I’ll tell you what I am. I’m an Indian American. I’m proud of it. But I think we should have this debate. Black, white doesn’t matter. On the content of the ideas,” Ramaswamy concluded.
“What you should do is have the debate in an honest and fair way, and what you’re doing is not an honest and fair way,” Lemon replied, ending the segment.