On Monday’s Morning Joe, New York Times Chief White House Correspondent Peter Baker was welcomed onto the panel to discuss his and his colleagues’ latest report about President Trump’s TV news-watching habits. In the course of discussing the piece, MSNBC National Affairs Analyst John Heilemann made a point of bringing up how Trump’s favorite nightly news show to hate-watch is, reportedly, CNN Tonight with Don Lemon. Heilemann tried and failed to get Baker to pin Trump’s dislike of Lemon on the President’s supposed hatred of African-American people before turning to Princeton Professor Eddie Glaude Jr., the show’s only black panelist, for backup. Glaude did not explicitly agree with Heilemann, but was clearly amused by Heilmann’s “slightly devilish” suggestion.
Watch the segment yourself to get the full context of Heilemann’s comments:
HEILEMANN: Obviously, Trump watches, as you report in this sh-, in this piece, watches this show occasionally, you say, to get worked up in the morning.
BAKER: [agreeing] M-hm.
HEILEMANN: The show that works him up in the evening, you report, and I, I believe on the base of my reporting this is true, is Don Lemon at CNN.
BAKER: [agreeing] M-hm. M-hm.
HEILEMANN: So I'm curious, a lot of people have asked this question after the story came out: What is it – I'm asking this in a slightly devilish way, perhaps – what is it about Don Lemon that annoys the President so much?
[chuckles from panel, including Baker]
BAKER: Well, it’s a good question. Look, Don Lemon is, is, is pretty, uh, pretty, you know -- he’s uninhibited in what he says sometimes on the show. He gives his opinion in some ways -- he, he frames the issues in a way that clearly gets under the President's skin. Uh, I think that, you know, he likes this jolt of, of television he doesn't agree with. It's kinda hate watching, you know, he watches something that he knows is gonna rile him up. It’s like a, it’s like a big cup of caffeine. And, uh, uh, it's, uh -- most people try to avoid things that make them upset, but I think that President Trump – he gets a charge out of it. It’s part of how he operates.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: [interrupting] He has a different reaction.
BAKER: Yeah. And it's not new. This is not new to his, his lifestyle. This is the way he’s, he’s gone for a long time. It just happens to be new to this particular White House.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Well, and-.
HEILEMANN: [interrupting] I’m curious, I'm curious if Eddie has any views about why Donald Trump might be more, might be more, more upset about Don Lemon.
[laughter from panelists and off-set, followed by lots of cross talk until Joe picks up convo]
GLAUDE: Why me? [repeats several times while Heilemann speaks, then laughs]
HEILEMANN: I’m just curious. Eddie has -- Eddie, you’re an astute, you’re an astute commentator on media [inaudible]. I just didn’t know him. What do you say?
SCARBOROUGH: [trying to cut in] It’s, it’s, you know what?
BRZEZINSKI: [inaudible] that. I saw it.
SCARBOROUGH: I, I, I’ve gotta say -- Peter won't say it, I will. Um, it's the last name – Lemon.
[laughter from panel]
SCARBOROUGH: Because he has this reaction to that.
BRZEZINSKI: [interjecting] I bet it is.
SCARBOROUGH: And it's, it’s a negative lemon. Bleh.
Heilemann probably expected Glaude to back him up because of what the professor had said earlier on at the beginning of the morning show’s broadcast. More specifically, the Princeton academic used a personal experience of racism from his childhood growing up in Mississippi to paint not just the South, but all of America as a fundamentally racist country:
SCARBOROUGH: And, and, and the, the only thing I, I, that I've been grappling with this weekend is, is, is how this guy wins. Because, if he does win, then everything that I’ve been telling myself for the past 54 years about a new South that has moved forward, that has moved on, may actually not be the case. And, I've got to say, I've said this before to people I -- and they didn't believe me, but, I mean, I was there, they weren't. I was born in Doraville, Georgia, and then we moved to Meridian, Mississippi. It’s kind of Deep South.
Uh, we lived in Pensacola, Florida. Proud, I’m very proud to call it the redneck Riviera and call it home. Redneck Riviera, Pensacola, Florida – it is home. Um, and I went to school in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for four years. I love those -- I love those people. I love them. And then I went down to Gainesville, Florida, still sort of Southern, Southern part. I just -- and I was a middle-class guy that hung out with working class kids and middle class kids. I just -- I never heard -- I just didn't, in 54 years, never heard my friends make racist comments or racially insensitive comments. I just didn't. I mean, maybe on the playground when, you know, you’re 5, 6, 7, 8 in Mississippi. But even then, the teachers would grab ‘em by the ears, yank ‘em to the office, and throw ‘em in the office. That's why, that’s why I don't understand how they vote for this man on Tuesday. I just-.
BRZEZINSKI: Well I, I think the focus group explains the pedophile claim, which I think is actually stirring up votes for Roy Moore. It's stirring up anger. I really do.
SCARBOROUGH: Can I ask really quickly,-
GLAUDE: [softly] Sure.
SCARBOROUGH: -because you grew up in the South too. Am I naive?
GLAUDE: To a certain extent, yes. I think there’s a sense in which -- one of the, one of the beautiful things, and one of the beautifully tragic things, about the country is that there is a kind of innocence and willful ignorance that happens on one side of the tracks about why there are tracks in the first place, right?
GLAUDE: And you know, I say tracks in the South because that’s usually what divides the Black side of town-
GLAUDE: -from the White side of town. And when you're on the White side of town, everything is, everything is normalized. Everything is normal. It's like oxygen, right? And the reality of the Black side of town is just: That's over there.
BRZEZINSKI: [agreeing] M-hm.
GLAUDE: Right? And so I remember when we moved from one side of Moss Point to the other. My dad was the second African-American hired at the post office in Pascagoula, Mississippi, ‘cause I grew up in Trent Lott’s district.
GLAUDE: Uh, we bought this house in Briarwood, and I was playing with those old Tonka trucks. Remember those old Tonka trucks?
SCARBOROUGH: Oh yeah.
GLAUDE: And all of a sudden, I heard: “Stop playing with that” n-word.
GLAUDE: And I had to grab my truck and walk inside. And my dad, who was a Vietnam vet, went out and handled his business. But the idea of this not happening -- it happened to me when I was 8 years old,-
GLAUDE: -and I had a real striking experience there.
GLAUDE: And it’s, it’s, it’s part of the,-
BRZEZINSKI: That is.
GLAUDE: -it's part of the oxygen of the South. But it -- to be honest with you, it's not just the South. Oftentimes, we want to make that region bear the burden of the nation’s national sin.
BRZEZINSKI: [talking under Glaude] Well, right now the spotlight is there.
GLAUDE: It's America's madness. It’s not the South’s madness.