CNN's Lemon Touts Twitter Attack on Paul Ryan; Labels Him 'Attack Dog'

Don Lemon offered a strange critique of Paul Ryan on Wednesday's CNN Tonight, as he noted the House Speaker's "poker face" during Tuesday's State of the Union address. Lemon spotlighted a Twitter post from Shonda Rhimes, where the Hollywood writer/producer attacked Speaker Ryan for his lack of applause: "She [Rhimes] said, 'Seriously? You cannot clap for curing cancer? You are that much of a whiner?'"

The anchor later wondered if there are "two sides of Paul Ryan...you see this, sort of, back-slapping, friendly speaker who is joking...with the Vice President. They seem to have a good time. Then, on the other — I mean, really, you have an attack dog on Obama's policies — especially when you look at ObamaCare." [video below]

Lemon raised the Wisconsin Republican's "poker face" during a panel discussion segment with The Hill's Bob Cusack, the Washington Examiner's Kristen Soltis Anderson, and Republican strategist Phil Musser. Cusack actually interrupted the CNN journalist just as he was introducing the subject: "What do you think, Don? I mean, you know, what was your call?" He replied with his citation of Rhimes's Tweet:

DON LEMON: I think it was quite obvious. I just — I kept watching him going, oh is he going to applaud for this? Is he going to squirm on that? Everyone noticed his lack of applause. Even Shonda Rhimes Tweeted — you know, out — she said, Tweeted this out — said, 'Seriously? You cannot clap for curing cancer? You are that much of a whiner?' And hashtag State of the Union, or SOTU.

Musser first replied by quipping, "I don't know. Maybe, he forgot to buy his Powerball ticket, and he was bummed about it." He continued by underlining that "Boehner cried....he was weeping all the time. You know, maybe, Paul Ryan is a little bit stonier, and trying to send this — you know, kind of a signal about gravitas."

Moments later, Anderson asserted that the House Speaker, by "staying as neutral as possible — bringing out that poker face — he's doing what he needs to, to lead his very-diverse caucus, and just try not to make any waves." Lemon interjected, "I don't know if that is neutral....we're showing pictures that show that it wasn't so neutral...it was kind of like — I'm not listening. I'm not going to laugh at your joke. That's not funny — right? I mean, you could sort of read his face."

The anchor used his "attack dog" term about Speaker Ryan in a question to Musser. The Republican strategist replied, in part, that Ryan is a "principled conservative leader. That said...if President Obama sincerely works with Paul Ryan, I think he'd find a partner that could make the machinery of the legislative process work and — and accomplish things for the country."

The transcript of the relevant portion of the panel discussion segment from the January 13, 2016 edition of CNN Tonight:

DON LEMON: So, let's talk about Paul Ryan's poker face — or whether he would be a good poker player (laughs) or not — okay — last night. So, he says—

[CNN Graphic: "Paul Ryan's Tweets During SOTU"]

BOB CUSACK, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE HILL: I don't know. What do you think — what do you think, Don? I mean, you know, what was your call on it?

LEMON: I think it was quite obvious. I just — I kept watching him going, oh is he going to applaud for this? Is he going to squirm on that? Everyone noticed his lack of applause. Even Shonda Rhimes Tweeted — you know, out — she said, Tweeted this out — said, 'Seriously? You cannot clap for curing cancer? You are that much of a whiner?' And hashtag State of the Union, or SOTU. I mean, so, what — what do you guys think? Phil, I'll go to you first.

[CNN Graphic: "Paul Ryan's Poker Face"]

PHIL MUSSER, PRESIDENT, NEW FRONTIER STRATEGY: I mean, I don't know. Maybe, he forgot to buy his Powerball ticket, and he was bummed about it. (Lemon laughs) I mean, you know, honestly — look, Boehner cried. You know, he was — he was — you know, he was weeping all the time. You know, maybe, Paul Ryan is a little bit — little bit stonier, and trying to send this — you know, kind of a signal about gravitas. But — but beyond that, I'm not exactly sure I know — you know?

LEMON: Kristen?

KRISTEN SOLTIS, WASHINGTON EXAMINER COLUMNIST: I had no problem with Paul Ryan's face during the State of the Union. I think his job there was to be, sort of, the respectful opposition — not to make unpleasant faces; not to boo; not to do anything bad like that. But, you know, he's the leader of the opposition party, and if you don't agree with the things that the President is saying — you know, he's in this tough position where he's got a very-diverse caucus in the House — many of whom are still trying to figure out — okay? You're the new speaker, but do you really represent me in the very conservative wing of the party? So, by staying as neutral as possible — bringing out that poker face — he's doing what he needs to (Lemon laughs), to lead his very-diverse caucus, and just try not to make any waves—

LEMON: I don't know if that is neutral—

MUSSER: And that is — and that is, actually, a smart answer—

LEMON: I don't know if that is — that is a smart answer, but that was not neutral, as you were saying. He was neutral — we're showing pictures that show that it wasn't so neutral. I mean, but it was kind of like — I'm not listening. I'm not going to laugh at your joke. That's not funny — right? I mean, you could sort of read his face. Bob, I'll let you weigh in.

CUSACK: Well, it's the first time Paul Ryan has been in that chair. So, it's a very awkward spot for him, because you got to decide, very quickly (Lemon laughs), whether you are going to clap — you're going to get up. And so, I think he tried to play it safe and be grim the whole time. And of course, remember: Barack Obama said some nice things about Paul Ryan. I wonder if Paul Ryan was thinking, 'Please, Mr. President. Stop doing that.'

LEMON: (laughs) Exactly. This is going to be like the Chris Christie hug — don't do it. So, are there two sides of Paul Ryan? It seems like — you know, one hand you see this — this, sort of, back-slapping, friendly speaker who is joking — you know, with the Vice President. They seem to have a good time. Then, on the other — I mean, really, you have an attack dog on Obama's policies — especially when you look at ObamaCare, Phil.

MUSSER: Well, you have a principled conservative leader who is one of the smartest policymakers that has come through in the Congress in the last half century. I mean, this is a guy who has unbelievable mental faculty. He has unbelievable respect in his caucus; and very importantly, he's a principled conservative leader.

That said, you know, all those niceties you just referenced with respect to President Obama — if President Obama sincerely works with — with Paul Ryan, I think he'd find a partner that could make the machinery of the legislative process work and — and accomplish things for the country.

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