During Wednesday’s edition of CNN Tonight, host Don Lemon played a clip of Representative Ron DeSantis, Republican nominee in the Florida gubernatorial election, saying “the last thing we need to do is monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state” during an interview with Fox News. Lemon asked: “Does anybody else hear that dog whistle? It’s kind of a bullhorn.”
If "monkey" is imagined as dehumanizing, then what kind of metaphor is "dog whistle"? Aren't you suggesting conservative voters are dogs?
Lemon then played a clip of DeSantis describing his Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum as an “articulate spokesman for those far-left views.” Lemon seemed to think the word “articulate” was racist as well, describing it as a “popular slur disguised as a compliment, articulate, as if it’s surprising when a person of color speaks well.”
By Lemon’s own standards, Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would qualify as a racist. After all, Reid described President Obama as “a light-skinned African-American with no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one.” Reid surely sounded surprised that “a person of color,” in this case, President Obama, actually “speaks well.” Yet when this story broke, the media found reporting on it quite inconvenient.
Not surprisingly, President Trump’s archenemy and CNN White House Reporter Jim Acosta asked the President “Did you see what was said about Andrew Gillum down in Florida with Ron Desantis… the candidate you endorsed, he said that it’s not time to monkey around with the economy down in Florida? Desantis may have made a racist comment.” President Trump told Acosta that he had not heard Desantis make those comments and described the Florida gubernatorial candidate as “an extreme talent” who “will make a fantastic Governor of Florida.”
President Trump’s answer failed to satisfy Lemon, who continued tearing into the President: “Didn’t hear it. Now, whether you believe that or not, that’s really not the point. A true leader would condemn any racist comment, any unseemly comment full stop.”
Lemon continued to make the case that President Trump is a racist, playing a clip of President Trump’s “both sides” response to the violence at last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville and comments he made at an Alabama rally arguing that NFL owners should kick players who kneel during the national anthem off the field.
Lemon concluded that every American should have seen Desantis’s comments coming because of his affiliation with President Trump: “It’s not surprising that a Trump supporter would say something racially insensitive. He’s just following the President’s lead.”
Lemon concluded his monologue by taking a page from the brother of one of his CNN colleagues, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who argued that “America was never that great.” Lemon asked the President’s supporters “Why do you ignore the racist history and present of America?”
A transcript of the relevant portion of CNN Tonight With Don Lemon is below. Click “expand” to read more.
CNN Tonight With Don Lemon
DON LEMON: This is CNN Tonight. I am Don Lemon. Well, you know what? That did not take long. I want you, before I get started, I want you to keep benefit of the doubt in mind and I’ll tell you why, benefit of the doubt, keep that in mind. But this didn’t take long. Only a few hours after Ron Desantis declared victory in Florida’s Republican gubernatorial primary, the Trump-endorsed candidate said this to Fox News about the Democratic candidate, Andrew Gillum, the Mayor of Tallahassee who happens to be the first African-American nominee for Governor of Florida.
RON DESANTIS: The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.
LEMON: Does anybody else hear that dog whistle? It’s kind of a bullhorn. He actually said monkey this up. Sadly, it’s not even surprising anymore when one of President Trump’s supporters says something racially insensitive and if you think that was just a slip of the tongue, listen to this.
DESANTIS: He is an articulate spokesman for those far left views and he’s a charismatic candidate.
LEMON: Articulate, yep. Popular slur disguised as a compliment, articulate, as if it’s surprising when a person of color speaks well. Mayor Gillum telling CNN this.
ANDREW GILLUM: I actually believe that Florida and its rich diversity are going to be looking for a governor who is going to bring us together; not divide us, not misogynist, not racist, not bigot.
LEMON: So the President had a golden opportunity to condemn Desantis’s language today. But listen to what happened when Jim Acosta asked him about it.
JIM ACOSTA: Did you see what was said about Andrew Gillum down in Florida with Ron Desantis…
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No I didn’t.
ACOSTA: …the candidate you endorsed, he said that it’s not time to monkey around with the economy down in Florida?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, I didn’t hear that, honestly…
ACOSTA: Desantis may have made a racist comment.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yeah, I didn’t hear that, Jim. I have been actually working on the deal with Canada so I have not heard it. I’ll tell you what, I know Ron Desantis. Ron Desantis is extraordinary, Harvard, Yale, brilliant, ran an incredible campaign, really beat a lot of people that he wasn’t supposed to beat because he came into the race and a lot of people didn’t know him. He’s an extreme talent and he will make a fantastic Governor of Florida so I think Ron is, he is extraordinary in so many different ways. I haven’t heard that at all, no.
LEMON: Didn’t hear it. Now, whether you believe that or not, that’s really not the point. A true leader would condemn any racist comment, any unseemly comment full stop but this is the man who launched his campaign with an attack on Mexicans.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: When Mexico sends it people, they’re not sending their best. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists.
LEMON: Who responded to deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville by infamously claiming, there were, his words “very fine people on both sides.”
PRESIDENT TRUMP: You also had people that were very fine people on both sides. You had people in that group…excuse me. Excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did.
LEMON: Who has never stopped attacking NFL players protesting what they see as systematic bias against people of color.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a (bleep) off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s FIRED!
LEMON: This is the President who reportedly still clings to the racist birther lie that President Barack Obama was not born in this country and so on and so on and so on. So, no. It’s not surprising that a Trump supporter would say something racially insensitive. He’s just following the President’s lead. This is where the whole benefit of the doubt thing comes in that gets me to that so let me just ask you this. Okay? I’m just being honest here so whatever you can write on Twitter, whatever, let me know how you feel but think about it before you respond. All my life, some five decades, I have witnessed people, mainly white people, giving people who say or do racist things the benefit of the doubt claiming that racism is something from a time gone by, that the person exhibiting the racist behavior is not racist or didn’t mean to be racist. Why is that? Ask yourself, why are people, at this critical moment in our existence, so willing to overlook so many things, especially racism, and expect, demand really, that they not be judged or criticized for it. Why do you give this President the benefit of the doubt over and over and over again about so many things; infidelity, lying, racist behavior. Same thing with the supporters, his surrogates, his administration. Same thing with the candidates who model themselves after him. Why are you so willing to overlook and give the benefit of the doubt to that but not the people who are telling you that your behavior is offensive to them? Why are you purposely ignoring the racist history and present of America? What does that say about you? And those who say, well let’s just give Ron Desantis the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t mean it, okay. I say this. Shouldn’t someone who is running to be a leader, especially the governor of a state, shouldn’t they be more aware? Shouldn’t he know better? Shouldn’t we expect better of our public servants and quite frankly, ourselves?