Don Lemon has unwittingly let CNN's cat out of the bag. Guests aren't there to engage in an actual discussion. They're brought on to express a specific opinion. And if they try to stray from CNN's script, they will be shut down.
Lemon gave a perfect illustration of the phenomenon on Monday's CNN This Morning. The guest was Len Khodorkovsky, a former Trump administration official, who is Jewish. And in Lemon's mind, the clear purpose of Khodorkovsky's appearance was to have him criticize Trump for hosting a dinner with Nick Fuentes and Kanye West.
In fact, in a variety of ways, Khodorkovsky did just that. He began with: "Let's just call Nick Fuentes for who he is. He is an antisemite, he's repulsive, his views are disgusting. And no one of any substance should give him any forum"
But when he tried to expand the conversation to include antisemitism among elected Democrats including Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, AOC, and President Obama, Lemon shut him down. No one was allowed to discuss them.
Things got testy, with Khodorkovsky at one point saying, "Don, I would appreciate it if you didn't put words in my mouth."
Lemon gave away CNN's game when he said:
"The reason you were invited on this program was to talk about Donald Trump, this weekend, meeting with known antisemites. And whether you condemn it as someone who worked for the administration and who is Jewish. That's what this story is about. That's what you're here to talk about."
And when Lemon petulantly demanded a "yes or no" answer, Khodorkovsky landed a huge blow with this response:
"If there's an answer you want from me, why don't you tell me what that answer would be—and what's the need for me to appear here?"
Lemon foolishly fell into Khodorkovsky's trap, actually offering up the answers he was demanding from his guest!
"That answer would be . . was it wrong to meet with him? The answer is, yes, it was wrong to meet with him. Should he have met with him? The answer is no, he should not have met with him."
Don, it's very rich when you're telling somebody who is Jewish, who has experienced antisemitism first-hand, who is a grandson of Holocaust survivors, what is an appropriate way to address antisemitism. Frankly, it's a little bit insulting.
You know, Don, with the advances in artificial intelligence, in lieu of human guests it shouldn't be too hard for CNN to create a hologram that would give exactly the answers you want. Look into it!
Note: Wouldn't you have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Lemon got ahold of the producer who arranged for Khodorkovsky's appearance? Can't you imagine Lemon unloading along these lines: "what the hell were you thinking in inviting this guy? I was looking for someone to trash Trump, not start throwing examples of Democrat antisemitism back in my face!"
On CNN This Morning, Don Lemon's testy exchange with a Jewish former Trump official regarding Trump's dinner with Nick Fuentes and Kanye West was sponsored in part by Etsy, GoDaddy, Johnson & Johnson, maker of Listerine, Subaru, and Dove.
Here's the transcript.
CNN This Morning
6:30 am ET
DON LEMON: Joining us now is Len Khodorkovsky, he is a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Trump administration, and he is Jewish. Thank you for being here.
. . .
LEN KHODORKOVSKY: You know, I can tell an antisemite when I hear one. And I can tell you with confidence that President Trump is not an antisemite. He also has a very strong record on issues that concern the Jewish community. We can start with any number of things, like making it tougher to discriminate against Jewish students at college campuses.
LEMON: Okay, sir, I understand that, but can we talk about Nick Fuentes, please. Thank you.
KHODORKOVSKY: Let's just call Nick Fuentes for who he is. He is an antisemite, he's repulsive, his views are disgusting. And no one of any substance should give him any forum. It's frankly beneath President Trump to meet with him, of course.
LEMON: Okay, so you're saying it was wrong for him to meet with him?
KHODORKOVSKY: Well, again, he didn't know he was coming, but it's never a good idea to give antisemites a forum.
LEMON: What about Kanye West? He knew Kanye West was coming, and Kanye West has certainly made many antisemitic outbursts and statements, especially as recently as a few weeks ago.
KHODORKOVSKY: Yeah. I think Kanye West sounds a lot like Louis Farrakhan and President Trump, I wish he wouldn't have met with either one of them frankly . . . If we're going to make Trump repudiate Kanye or a sidekick, I think we have to look at antisemitism in the halls of Congress, from Rashida Tlaib, from Ilhan Omar, from AOC, from the entire Abbas caucus.
LEMON: They're not President of the United States.
KHODORKOVSKY: Look at the mainstreaming of woke antisemitism on college campuses.
LEMON: Sir, they're not the President of the United States. And this is whataboutism. He met with an antisemite. So, can we stick to the former President, and not do whataboutism?
. . .
It sounds like you're making excuses for him. And there's no excuse for bad behavior, there's no excuse for antisemitism, and there's no excuse for being the former president and not knowing who you're allowing into a place where you have kept classified documents.
KHODORKOVSKY: Don, I would appreciate it if you didn't put words in my mouth.
LEMON: I'm asking if you entertain, do you condemn him for entertaining and meeting with antisemites? It's a very simple question.
. . .
KHODORKOVSKY: Well, I'm trying to give you an answer, that I wish he wouldn't have met with them.
LEMON: It's a yes or no. It's a yes or no.
KHODORKOVSKY: I didn't realize I was on a witness stand here, Don. He should not have met with Kanye West and a sidekick. What I'm also trying to point out, Don, is that it behooves you and CNN, and every other press outlet, to call it out when you see it. Especially when it comes in the halls of congress, especially when every Democratic presidential hopeful goes and kisses the ring of Al Sharpton.
. . .
If you're going to make me do a yes or no with you. Yes or no, should Ilhan Omar be condemned? Yes or no, should Rashida Tlaib be condemned? Yes or no should --
LEMON: This is not about Omar or Tlaib.
KHODORKOVSKY: Yes or no, should President Obama condemn Louis Farrakhan and Jeremiah Wright? Yes or no, Don?
LEMON: This is not about President Obama. This is not about Jeremiah Wright. This is about Donald Trump and Nick Fuentes.
KHODORKOVSKY: Why don't you want to talk about the problem --
LEMON: Because they're not meeting with them at their homes. They're not meeting with antisemites. They're not meeting with antisemites.
And the reason you were invited on this program was to talk about Donald Trump, this weekend, meeting with known antisemites. And whether you condemn it as someone who worked for the administration and who is Jewish. That's what this story is about. That's what you're here to talk about.
KHODORKOVSKY: So if there's an answer you want from me, why don't you tell me what that answer would be—and what's the need for me to appear here?
LEMON: That answer would be one of not whataboutism. It would be one to directly address the situation at hand.
Was it wrong to meet with him? The answer is, yes, it was wrong to meet with him. Should he have met with him? The answer is no, he should not have met with him. It's very simple.
KHODORKOVSKY: Don, it's very rich when you're telling somebody who is Jewish, who has experienced antisemitism first-hand, who is a grandson of Holocaust survivors, what is an appropriate way to address antisemitism. Frankly, it's a little bit insulting.
LEMON: It's insulting for you to think I don't understand bigotry and racism. Because, I understand it.