CNN anchor Don Lemon grabbed headlines over the weekend with his Twitter announcement that he is gay. On Monday his co-workers provided plenty of time for him on two separate shows to share his story and his own views on the gay-rights issue, and showered him with support. As if that wasn't enough, he asked them in turn to do the same for others "who choose to come out."
"I really appreciate all the support, and I hope you continue to support not only me, but other people who choose to come out," Lemon told afternoon Newsroom host Brooke Baldwin. In the past, Lemon has himself provided a podium for gay rights activists to makes themselves heard, though he claims objectivity on the issue.
(Video after the break.)
"I don't think just because I'm gay that it makes, it takes my brain away...or it makes me not be objective," he told HLN's Joy Behar on her Monday night show. "I've been doing this job for a long time. And I've been objective and I think I've been fair." But as NewsBusters reported yesterday, Lemon has a history of pro-gay bias as a CNN anchor.
Both Baldwin and Behar hosted Lemon Monday on their respective shows and gave him sympathetic interviews. It didn't take long for him to sound his own personal views on the issue, hitting the African-American community and churches for thinking "they can pray the gay away" and that "the church can somehow beat this out of you."
Baldwin didn't question this colorful assumption of the church "beating" homosexuality out of people, but instead called Lemon her friend and "saluted" him for telling his story.
Lemon told Behar that he would "just be happy with allowing people to live their lives....If we lived, if we really abided by what our constitution says and what this country was built on is that everyone has the right to be who they are."
"I was born gay just as I was born black," he told Behar. He said that he strongly considered cutting the story of his childhood sexual abuse and sexual orientation out of his memoir "Transparent" -- but the suicide of gay Rutgers student Tyler Clementi changed his mind.
"If I had someone like me who had chosen to live their lives out and proud, there would be no need for the Tyler Clementis of the world or for teenagers to want to kill themselves because of concerns about their sexuality," Lemon said.
A transcript of the segments is as follows:
4:23 p.m. EDT
BROOKE BALDWIN: The struggles of race, homosexuality abuse – my own colleague, Don Lemon, covers all three of these tough topics in this new book he's written. It's called "Transparent," and in the book Don talks about his own life growing up as a black man from the Deep South, his journey through the world of television news which landed him, as you see him, all the time here at CNN at the national anchor desk. And through this book he opens up about his walk through life, which comes with many battles lost and won, and the many, many lessons he learned along the way. Now we get to talk to Don Lemon – there he is, live in New York.
BALDWIN: I noticed though, also, Don, you dedicated the book to Tyler Clementi who we talked a lot about here at CNN. He was that Rutgers freshman who committed suicide after his roommate streamed him inside his dorm room with another guy online. He killed himself –
DON LEMON: His roommate and his dorm mates, yeah. His roommates and dorm mates, they put up a web cam and got him in a compromising position with his friend, whoever it was. I'd just like to say they put his personal business online for the world to see. And he couldn't handle it. He had to deal with the repercussions from people whom I'm sure were making fun of him, were mocking him, and then were worrying about his privacy being streamed online and where that would go. And so he jumped off a bridge, but he's not the only one it happens to. There are many young people who do that, and especially gay teens are three or four times more likely to commit suicide than most teenagers. Teenagers are susceptible anyway, more susceptible than just about anyone, but gay teens are even more susceptible. So if there are – hang on one second, Brooke. If there are people like me who – I'm nervous about it, about what's going to happen – but who chose to live their life honestly and not have to lie and not have to not talk about it – if that had happened for me when I was young, then it wouldn't have taken me 45 years to get to this point, and there wouldn't be people like Tyler Clementi, teenagers.
BALDWIN: You use the world "nervous." Why "nervous"? And I also know part of the book, maybe – and this is part of the answer is, you say it was particularly tough because being a black man – why?
LEMON: Well because, I mean, let's just be honest. I mean, I, an African-American anchor, my base is, one would think, would be African-Americans would be black folks, as we say. And so that's it, and in the black community, I mean quite honestly it's the worst thing that you can be in the culture is to be a gay man. Because men are supposed to be masculine, they're supposed to be the head of the family, they're supposed to be these tough guys, and there is this assumption that because someone is gay that they are feminine or effeminate or they are not a man. There is nothing about me that wants to be a woman. I don't want to wear a dress, I don't want to wear make-up, except for the powder, the little bit that I put on for television. And I don't even want to wear that. So it's not about being a woman, it's not about being effeminate. It's about doing what's natural, and living in what's natural to you. So people will say that it's not natural, but natural means in your nature, and in my nature is what I am. And so in black culture, because of the church, because of, I guess, racism, and how people have been treated in the past here in the United States, you know we are suffering as African-Americans, we are suffering the sort of vestiges of that, and all of that comes with African-Americans who don't want to accept it, who think they can pray the gay away, who think that the church can somehow beat this out of you, that it doesn't exist, and that is all just a bunch of bull.
BALDWIN: Well Don Lemon, as you said, we are friends, and I love that, you know, you are who you are, on tv, off tv, and that's one of the really special things about you. And I just really – I salute you for being so transparent and honest in your book, and hopefully you will help others as they read your own story, "Transparent," Don Lemon. I know you have a busy, busy next couple of days in New York, but thanks for coming on. I appreciate it.
LEMON: Thank you Brooke, and I really – your words really mean a lot. They're very powerful, and for all the people who have sent me e-mails and facebook messages and tweets and texts – thank you so much, I haven't had a chance to read not even a third of them, because I've been stuck on an airplane all day. But thank you so much, I really appreciate all the support, and I hope you continue to support not only me, but other people who choose to come out.
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JOY BEHAR SHOW
10:16 p.m. EDT
DON LEMON: Well, I can talk about President Obama and be objective and I`m a black man. I can talk about having a mortgage and having your house not being worth what it was three, four years ago and -- and be a journalist.
JOY BEHAR: Right.
LEMON: I don`t think -- I don`t think just because I`m gay that it makes, it takes my brain away.
LEMON: Or it makes me not be objective. I`ve been doing this job for a long time. And I`ve been objective and I think I`ve been fair. And I`m human. And if I make a mistake and I go too far in something then, I`ll just apologize and I`ll move on. People who are heterosexual do that.
LEMON: So I`m not weak at all and so I just think that`s -- that`s part of it. And that the black community especially needs to get over that. And I can`t speak for other communities because I`m not that.
BEHAR: Yes, of course, I understand.
BEHAR: That`s interesting. And the down low -- is the down low really where you`re really posing as a hetero in your personal life? That would -- but then you really go on the side and get your needs --
LEMON: It`s -- it`s a double life. It`s a double life where you --
BEHAR: But you don`t feel you were ever in that?
BEHAR: No, no, no.
LEMON: No, no, no. And let me tell you that just doesn`t happen in the black community. It`s more prevalent in the black community --
BEHAR: Yes. Oh yes. Right.
LEMON: -- but it happens in all cultures and all races and even different religions from different countries.
BEHAR: I like how you said, God made you this way.
LEMON: God -- I was born gay just as I was born black.
BEHAR: Exactly, exactly it`s not a choice. People have to get with the program.
LEMON: If it was a choice then, I would have decided when I was a kid or when I prayed all those years that I would change. If it was a choice, something would have happened, I would have changed. It`s not a choice.
BEHAR: Do you think that if people would just get that, that it`s not a choice, that this is the way people are born, that the black community and other communities that eschew this type of lifestyle would change their minds?
LEMON: I think it would be great if people would get that. Right?
LEMON: But I think I would just be happy with allowing people to live their lives. And to do as whatever you think the higher power says, whatever you think. It`s God or Yahweh, or whoever you think it is, live and let live, not judge. I would just be happy with that.
If we lived, if we really abided by what our constitution says and what this country was built on that everyone has the right to be who they are.
BEHAR: That`s true. But people do stand in your way.