CNN morning show host Don Lemon managed to surprise “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert during a Monday evening appearance when he asserted that he didn’t believe his network had ever been “liberal.”
Lemon and Colbert discussed CNN’s new management — namely new CEO Chris Licht, who had previously worked for Colbert — and the apparent new direction the network has taken since Licht took over and the long-planned Warner Bros./Discovery merger went through. And when Colbert asserted that Licht was not “allowing” people at CNN to be liberal anymore, Lemon argued that they hadn’t been before.
On @colbertlateshow, @DonLemon claims of CNN: “I don’t think we ever were liberal.” #Colbert pic.twitter.com/eHj8LYg5xt
— Brent Baker 🇺🇦 (@BrentHBaker) November 29, 2022
“Look who that is. It’s one of the co-hosts of ‘CNN This Morning,’ Donald Lemon,” Colbert began, introducing the CNN anchor. “Now, our old buddy Chris Licht, he used to stand right over there where …”
“Who? Who is it?” Lemon asked.
“Chris Licht, he is the CEO of CNN. He’s your boss now,” Colbert continued. “He used to stand right over there. He’d stand right over there and hit the applause sign before we’d go to commercial. Basically, all his job was. And now he’s got a really hard job, which is, which is running CNN. The word on the street is that you guys aren’t allowed to be liberal anymore. Is that, is that the case?”
“I don’t think we ever were liberal,” Lemon shot back.
“What?” Colbert appeared to be confused.
“Yes, I don’t think we ever were,” Lemon insisted.
Colbert pushed back, saying that it wasn’t really him saying that Licht wasn’t allowing anchors to be liberal: “That’s the people out there saying that he’s not letting you be liberal anymore.”
“Well, listen, I think that, I think what Chris is saying is that he wants Republicans, sensible Republicans,” Lemon explained, arguing that the new direction was more about keeping people “comfortable” than about choosing a side. “But also, by the nature of what we do, we have to hold people to account. And so that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going liberal or conservative or whatever. It just means that we are doing what we do. And that’s good journalism.”
“So accountable, not confrontational,” Colbert posited.
“I think sometimes one must be confrontational,” Lemon argued, going on to explain that the real move was away from being overtly hateful and attacking each other.
“Look, I don’t think that a conversation on television should be any different than a conversation in person. Listen, I have, I have confrontational conversations with people I love and I have uncomfortable conversations with people I love. And I think it’s necessary,” he said. “And I think it’s also necessary to to do that on television, on CNN. And then but you can do that without being vitriolic. I think not being vitriolic is maybe a better way of putting it. But you can do that and not have vitriol. And as people say, you can disagree without being disagreeable. And so I think that that’s what our mission is.”