Early Wednesday morning, CNN Tonight host Don Lemon descended into the gutter by suggesting that President Donald Trump had no role in writing his speech to Congress because it sounded as though it was “written by a college student for someone else trying to use big words” Trump wasn’t smart enough to understand.
Of course, as some might remember, this is the same CNN program that the President called out during his marathon February 16 press conference as being devoutly anti-Trump.
Speaking that day to CNN’s Jim Acosta, Trump blasted Lemon’s show:
Well, you look at your show that goes on at 10 o’clock in the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit. The panel is almost always exclusive anti-Trump. The good news is he doesn’t have good ratings. But the panel is almost exclusive anti-Trump. And the hatred and venom coming from his mouth; the hatred coming from other people on your network.
Back to the present, Lemon arrived at this conclusion on Trump’s intelligence after realizing that he had a “Nixon versus Kennedy television moment tonight because...if you listen the speech, it sounds much different than if you're looking at it on the television.”
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The CNN host teased his inflammatory comments by arguing that Trump didn’t really resonate with his own speech: “It sounds like a speech that was written for someone that he was reciting, and there were some big words and phrases that I don't think that he actually connected to if you just listened to the speech.”
Former Obama aide Jen Psaki agreed that “[i]t didn’t sound like his voice” and this propelled Lemon to further explain that when you look at the last two Presidents (George W. Bush and Barack Obama), each man’s off the cuff remarks were always similar to how they spoke when they had prepared remarks.
It was then that Lemon attacked Trump as having low intelligence and a weak grasp of the English language:
The way President Trump speaks extemporaneously, is not the same as what he said tonight. It sounded, to me, and this is just — I mean, I thought it was — he sounded very presidential. This was a speech written by a college student for someone else trying to use big words to impress that the person who is reciting it did not know the meaning of the words. That's how it sounded.
While liberal, CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers fired back, telling Lemon she had to disagree because, as far as the tone of his speech, she’s “interviewed him a couple of times and that's what it reminded me of.”
She added that it seemed to be “very familiar” to her in that he’s “very calm” and a “pretty reasonable” person when she’s interviewed him in private.
Continuing to flash his condescension, Lemon quipped he can be “charming in person” even though Powers was off the mark: “I know that’s a hard — that’s just my assessment if you listen. Go back and just listen to it and don't watch it.”
Here’s the relevant portion of the transcript from March 1's CNN Tonight with Don Lemon:
CNN Tonight with Don Lemon
March 1, 2017
12:55 a.m. Eastern
JEN PSAKI: I think as we transitioned to the substance of the speech, a lot of the things we heard are completely disconnected from how he's governed as President and, you know, the fact is he has a speech that passed over a hurdle of whether it was optimistic or negative, it was optimistic. So, he’s going to have some good headlines tomorrow morning. But the fact — he’s probably change his tone, and the reality of his policies are not aligned with what you just said about paid leave and standing up for women and equality for women. That is not what his administration is representing. So, it sounds good, but the details and the facts are not actually aligned with the words that came out of his mouth.
DON LEMON: I think I had a radio versus — remember Nixon versus Kennedy television moment tonight because if, you know, as people in journalism, as anchors, we're taught to go back and listen to ourselves and not necessarily look at ourselves yourselves and if you listen the speech, it sounds much different than if you're looking at it on the television. And, to me, it sounds like a speech that was written for someone that he was reciting, and there were some big words and phrases that I don't think that he actually connected to if you just listened to the speech.
PSAKI: It didn't sound like his voice.
LEMON: It sounded like a prof — it didn't sound like his voice cause if you look at — when he speaks extemporaneously, you learn a lot about people. The way President Obama spoke extemporaneously was very similar to the way he spoke when he gave speeches. The way President Bush spoke extemporaneously was very similar to the way he gave speeches. The way President Trump speaks extemporaneously, is not the same as what he said tonight. It sounded, to me, and this is just — I mean, I thought it was — he sounded very presidential. This was a speech written by a college student for someone else trying to use big words to impress that the person who is reciting it did not know the meaning of the words. That's how it sounded.
KRISTEN POWERS: I'm going to disagree with that a little bit.
LEMON: I know that’s a hard — that’s just my assessment if you listen. Go back and just listen to it and don't watch it.
POWERS: What it actually reminded me of — I've interviewed him a couple of times and that's what it reminded me of. This’s exactly what he was like.
LEMON: He's charming in person ----
POWERS: He’s but — but that’s what he’s like.
LEMON: — but I'm talking about him speaking in front of a crowd as he’s speaking.
POWERS: To me, it was a very familiar —the way he talks, he’s actually — at least when I've interviewed him, very calm. He can be pretty reasonable. So, to me, it wasn't a completely foreign person.
LEMON: I've spoken to him a number of times personally. He never says anything like beach heads — you know — on the beach — it’s not.
POWERS: It was a written speech, though. I actually think this is a little unfair. I mean, when you — I mean, President Obama had help writing his speeches, Jen, right?
LEMON: Of course he did he needs help, but I'm talking act his voice. I'm not saying anything bad about him, but I don’t think it was in his voice.
ANA NAVARRO: Well, I listened to it on the radio too because I was on my way in from the airport and it's just a different trump from when you see him speaking on TV or when you see him speaking in campaign or in rallies. It's a very different Trump. There were a lot of pauses where you could see he'd come to the end of the teleprompter and he was waiting. I think it worked for him. I think it's good to think about things before you say them and not just, you know, explode.
MATT LEWIS: I think he was coherent. A lot of his other speeches have been him sort of riffing extemporaneously and then every once in a while having these poetic flourishes that felt disjointed whereas this speech felt like one person — a Peggy Noonan — wrote it as opposed to a speech by committee or Steve Bannon writes this part, Stephen Miller writes this part, and then we'll go take something from John F. Kennedy. It seemed more coherent.