On Monday night, near the end of his CNN Tonight show, host Don Lemon got into a heated debate with right-leaning CNN political commentator Tara Setmayer after she began criticizing the media for giving the anti-gun Parkland student activists a forum to make incendiary attacks on the NRA and other opponents of gun control.
After she complained that, if you criticize the behavior of some of the students, "all of a sudden you're the bad guy," Lemon shot back: "You are the bad guy. Yes, you are, you are. These kids suffered an unimaginable tragedy. You let them vent, and then you move on."
The back and forth started at 11:53 p.m. Eastern, when Setmayer recalled that "Some of the rhetoric coming from some of the Parkland kids was a bit much," and then complained about the student activists "saying that the NRA has the blood of children on their hands."
Lemon brought up Benghazi as he countered: "During the election, I heard women whose son -- there was this one woman whose son had been killed in Benghazi, and she came out and she said really horrible things about, you know, Democrats and about Hillary Clinton, and no one criticized her because she was grieving."
After Setmayer continued, "You can't criticize the rhetoric because they are victims," the CNN host dismissively responded: "So what? They're kids -- so what?"
The right-leaning commentator then pointed out the problem of allowing inexperienced teenagers to decide what public policy should be: "We're elevating them to a point now where they're not making policy."
She added: "If you criticize some of what they're saying, then all of a sudden you're the bad guy."
Lemon asserted: "You are the bad guy."
After Setmayer responded, "No," he insisted: "Yes, you are, you are. These kids suffered an unimaginable tragedy. You let them vent, and then you move on."
Continuing to dismiss her concerns about giving air to one side of a political debate without being allowed to respond with appropriate criticism, he soon added: "We're not elevating them. And they deserve to have every elevation because of what they went through, and we should listen to them because I can't imagine what they went through."
This came on the heels of two such admissions by Lemon colleagues Brian Stelter and Jim Sciutto that Parkland students should, by and large, be off limits from criticism even if they spread blatant falsehoods and offer vile rhetoric.