During Thursday’s edition of CNN Tonight, host Don Lemon and his panel discussed the controversy surrounding Stephen Ross, the billionaire owner of Equinox and SoulCycle, over his decision to host a fundraiser for President Trump. Despite the fact that Ross also owns the complex known as Hudson Yards that CNN just moved to, Lemon and most of his panel trashed Ross's decision to host a to host a fundraiser for President Trump. In addition, Lemon defended political correctness as “life and death” to many people.
Lemon began the segment by stressing that Ross, as a “private citizen,” has the right to “support anyone he wants.” However, the CNN host argued that “inviting someone into your home and making millions of dollars for someone who is…has been oppressive to certain groups of Americans” is a “whole different story.”
CNN opinion writer LZ Granderson contended that “as a person of color, I don’t have the luxury of looking at tax cuts and deciding whether or not I want to vote that way. I have to look at a much larger picture.” The implication was that the “much larger picture” takes into account President Trump’s racism.
Lemon proceeded to read aloud a quote from Ross, who pointed out that while he agreed with President Trump on “some issues,” he disagreed with him on “many other issues.” Ross also referenced his commitment to “racial equality.” According to Lemon, it makes no sense that Ross could support President Trump if he cares about “racial equality” because “the President has made openly racist statements.”
Republican guest Doug Heye talked about how “political correctness” has led to Americans “divided on party lines, we’re divided within parties, we’re divided on race, we’re divided by religion.” Heye expressed dismay that “we’re looking at it business by business, so we’re divided on Chick-Fil-A, we’re divided on the NFL, we’re divided on Equinox, we’re divided on business after business and it just makes it harder for Americans to find any place where they can come together.”
Before Heye could finish his point, Lemon promptly rushed to defend political correctness; describing it as “shorthand for what is life and death to many people. It’s not political correctness when you are being discriminated against, if you are not allowed...as a gay person to be able to marry, if you don’t have the same rights under the Constitution...sometimes people use that political correct term and it’s shorthand for really just discrimination.”
As the segment came to a close, Lemon channeled his inner Ayanna Pressley by asking “what about the people who are maybe LGBT, maybe black, maybe Hispanic, who prioritize vanity or convenience over their rights?” In other words, people in those groups who support President Trump are selfish fools who don’t care about the “greater good” of their respective communities.
Perhaps Lemon should have listened to Granderson when he said “I think we get ourselves in trouble…when we try to police the way that people express and live their lives.” It looks like many on the left have decided to ignore that advice.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Thursday’s edition of CNN Tonight is below. Click “expand” to read more.
CNN Tonight With Don Lemon
DON LEMON: So, back with me now is Donte Stallworth, LZ Granderson, and Doug Heye. So LZ, let’s talk the big picture here. So, Ross is a private citizen. He can support anyone he wants. But there…there are also a lot of places that you can work out, right? People can choose not to work out at Equinox if they don’t like it. I actually called about my membership to get some clarification. And I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it. But that is the right that you have as a citizen, especially as a person of color and a gay person. You know, it feels different. And you talked about that, but go on. He…but he is a private citizen. But, you know, I think inviting someone into your home and making millions of dollars for someone who is…has been oppressive to certain groups of Americans. That’s a whole different story.
LZ GRANDERSON: Yeah. You know, for me, I draw the line between supporting a politician whose views that I don’t agree with, versus actively fundraising and trying to get them reelected. To me, that’s a little bit more assertive. To me, that is more reflective that you’re more in line with what you see that they’ve been doing thus far than you maybe supporting a particular party.
I’m not encouraging people to boycott. I’m encouraging people to follow their hearts. And if your heart says you’re okay with going to Equinox, then go to Equinox. If your heart is saying you feel weird about it, then don’t go to Equinox or change gym memberships. I’m only speaking in terms of Mr. Ross and how he tries to play both sides in his political donations in thinking that it gives him cover in both scenarios. And there comes a point, Don, in which there are issues that are way more pertinent than whether or not you can make more money than a tax cut. And as a person of color, I don’t have the luxury of looking at tax cuts and deciding whether or not I want to vote that way. I have to look at a much larger picture. He doesn’t have to do that. And I understand that.
LEMON: Listen. I called some people…I reached out to some people who worked there. And they said for them canceling their membership, there was not even a second thought. They just did it…because they work there. They know him. I don’t know why. I didn’t pry. But they said it wasn’t even a second thought. He did issue a statement here. And he says “I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions…I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, adversity, public education, and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.” So listen, Donte. First of all, the President has made openly racist statements, a lot of them. He’s trying to carve out racism as…as just another issue here. And there’s no one…and listen, when people say that’s an opinion. That’s not an opinion. The evidence is there.
DONTE STALLWORTH: Right.
LEMON: The President has made racist statements. It’s not…it’s not an opinion. It’s a fact, so…
LEMON: …but go on.
DONTE STALLWORTH: Yeah, I think, I think it’s troubling. And, you know, just the…it, it is much more important, I would say, than just another issue. There are many things that we, we are not really discussing when we’re talking about racism, is that people in this country don’t want to speak about racism. They don’t want to delve into the conversation that…that we’re…the founding principles of this country started in white nationalism.
LEMON: But then it’s also…it’s also that they don’t pri…they don’t prioritize. What LZ is getting to, and I think what…what Doug…what, you understood when…when you spoke with, you know, the person who has been affected by this in a way that, that you’re not, is that people don’t prioritize racism. They’ll prioritize…
LEMON: …as LZ said, a tax break or they’ll prioritize…
LEMON: …some other financial aspect, something that has to do with the economy, something that has to do…
LEMON: …but why don’t you prioritize racism? Is it because you…
STALLWORTH: Because it doesn’t affect them.
LEMON: …it doesn’t affect you or is it because maybe there’s something there that you don’t want to admit, but go on.
STALLWORTH: Yeah, no, it…it doesn’t affect them, Don. And I, and I…I live in Washington, D.C. I’ve been living here for five years. I’ve been working in politics. I have friends in the Pentagon. I used to have friends in the White House, not…not so much anymore. But State Department, you know, and I have friends all…
DOUG HEYE: Same here.
STALLWORTH: …through the government here, right? And…and I, and I was, you know, I speak to people all the time, Trump supporters, people who don’t like Trump. And the Trump supporters that I have speak, that I have spoken to, it’s all about…for them, it’s all about the economy and for them, the…they, they say that they don’t agree with his racist policies and his racist rhetoric and his rhetoric towards the media. But yet, for them, it…it’s not affecting them personally, like you see these children, children that are being held in these camps, these children that are crying for their parents. That’s…that’s not what America is supposed to be about. It’s not what we think of…
STALLWORTH: …when we think about America. But when we look at the history of America and understand America has been pulling children…children from their parents since the slavery days. And this is not something that Donald Trump started. But this is something that has obviously gotten worse under Donald Trump…Trump, and the rhetoric is getting worse from the President of the United States. And it’s not just reverberating around the country, Don. It’s reverberating around the whole globe.
STALLWORTH: And we see that with the rise in authoritarianism around the…around the world. And so what the President does sets precedent and it reverberates throughout the world. And that’s what Donald Trump is doing.
LEMON: So…so Doug, I have to ask you because, you know, he mentions…he says environmental sustainability. I mean, the administration pulled out of the Climate Accord, is dismantling regulations left and right. And, you know, if all of that is true, why is Trump his candidate? Number one, he says diversity and inclusion, okay, so the racist comments. And then he says, you know, the environmental sustainability, the Climate Accord, removing all the regulations that Obama did for climate change, so then what gives here? What is it? Is it just dollars?
HEYE: Yeah. I…I’m not sure where that comes from. Maybe it’s about wind farms offshore in the, in the Northeast that…that he’s looking at, which doesn’t get a lot of attention. I don’t know. But what I would tell you, Don, what…what ultimately concerns me, and I…and I agree with a lot of what LZ said, and really appreciate his perspective on this. And I would say people, of course, have to make what decision they want to make that…that is in their heart. What…what worries me, and this is where political correctness comes in, is we’re divided on party lines, we’re divided within parties. We’re divided on race. We’re divided by religion. And now we’re looking at it at business and…business by business. So we’re divided on Chick-Fil-A. We’re divided…we’re divided on the NFL. We’re divided on Equinox. We’re divided on business after business. And it makes it harder for Americans to find any place where they can come together. And I think those divisions again, are something that…
LEMON: Doug, look…
HEYE: …Donald Trump can exploit.
LEMON: …I appreciate what you’re saying, but political correctness is shorthand for what is life and death to many people. It’s not political correctness when you are being discriminated against, if you’re not allowed as a…as a…a gay person to be able to marry, if you don’t have the same rights under the Constitution.
HEYE: Well, that’s not what I…of course, I didn’t say that, Don.
LEMON: I know that. But sometimes, people use that political correct term. And it’s shorthand for really just discrimination…
LEMON: …and for people who don’t want to be discriminated against. Listen, I have got to run and I’m going to be a little bit over here. But I have to say, I want you to weigh in on this, LZ. For people who say that there are Trump supporters who prioritize the economy over racism, what about the people who are maybe LGBT, maybe black, maybe Hispanic, who prioritize vanity or convenience over the rights as well? They…they may continue their membership to Equinox or to SoulCycle. It’s their right. But isn’t that sort of the same thing happening? They’re prioritizing one over the other.
GRANDERSON: You know when I learned that…to answer your question, when I learned that Chick-Fil-A was funding anti-LGBT organizations, I stopped eating those sandwiches. But I know plenty of LGBT people who can’t quit those little chicken sandwiches. And I have to give them their space to let them live their lives. I’m not the…you know, I don’t…I think we get ourselves in trouble, Don, when we try to police the way that people express and live their lives. All we can do is give them the…
GRANDERSON: …information and hope they make sound decisions.
LEMON: Yeah. Thank you, all. I enjoyed the conversation.