Lemon: 'If You Grew Up in America,' 'How Can You Not be Racist?'

June 12th, 2020 6:50 PM

Leading off Thursday’s CNN Tonight, host Don Lemon accused White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow of “white mansplaining” by denying the existence of systemic racism in America. Lemon insisted: “If you really want to understand racism in America, just think about your...phone...the factory reset is whiteness.” Lemon went on to contend that “once you think about it like that, if you are any other ethnicity, the factory reset is not you; which means the norm is set to your standard and people who look like you, which means it favors you...Everything favors you.”

During the handover from Cuomo Prime Time host and friend Chris “Fredo”  Cuomo, Lemon also proclaimed that Kudlow and President Trump are “benefiting from systemic racism.” 


Less than 12 hours later, Lemon picked up where he left off as a guest on Friday's New Day. The CNN host described Trump as “tone deaf” and accused him of “doing the most harm when it comes to race relations, police relations in this country right now because he is simply behind the times. Not only is he not in 2020, he’s not even in 1968.”

After slamming people who disagree with renaming military bases named after Confederate soldiers, Lemon implied that every single white American automatically has a heart of racial bias:

Every year...I have hydrangeas in my yard and they come back a different color or a tulip or an orchid. And it’s not because they’re different, it’s because the soil is different...It depends on the nutrients in the soil. So, if you grew up in America, you came out of American soil...considering the history of this country...how can you not be racist?

Lemon concluded by recycling talking points about how “the factory reset in America is whiteness.” Lemon’s analysis seemed to conclude that America is irredeemably racist. Over on MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell came to a similar conclusion about white Americans unable to feel empathy for African-Americans as she wondered if white people were “capable” of “grieving for the loss of a black child.”

From Lemon and Mitchell’s rancorous analysis to Chris Cuomo’s declaration that “too many” Trump supporters want black people “put down,” the last 24 hours of cable news should make it perfectly clear that it’s the media that have done “the most harm when it comes to race relations,” not President Trump.

A transcript of the relevant portion of Thursday’s Cuomo Prime Time is below. Click “expand” to read more.

CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time
09:54 PM

CHRIS CUOMO: The argument starts here with Trump’s economic adviser saying this.

LARRY KUDLOW: I don’t believe nowadays we have systemic racism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said you don’t believe systemic racism exists in the United States?

KUDLOW: I do…I do not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At all in the U.S.?

KUDLOW: I do not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don’t think there’s any systemic racism against African-Americans in the United States?

KUDLOW: I will say it again. I do not.

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
10:00 PM

CHRIS CUOMO: Two reasons why someone like Larry Kudlow would say they don’t see systemic racism in this country. One, because in his world, he doesn’t see it. But I believe the real reason is he’s following Trump protocol. Lie, deny, and defy. Trump is not the first to play this division in our society; as I just argued it. It is built in. The challenge is to change it. And that is going to require something that Kudlow, Trump and Co don’t appear to have: the will to create a more perfect union. I’m late. Thank you for watching. CNN Tonight with D. Lemon right now.

DON LEMON: More perfect union. I said that to you last night. It’s…I call it white mansplaining. You know how you do mansplaining when…to women? This is white mansplaining the injustices that people they have no idea about are facing. That’s all it is. It’s…the very simple thing is if you really want to understand racism in America, just think about your…your phone. Right? Or your car or your computer. When you…the factory reset in America is whiteness. Is two cars, the American dream, which was built on what, on whiteness? And so, once you think about it like that, if you are any other ethnicity, the factory reset is not you; the, that…which means the norm is set to your standard. And people who look like you, which means it favors you. The opp…everything favors you. So, it’s just that easy. And he doesn’t know or they don’t know or they don’t want to know because they are, what? They are benefiting from systemic racism.

CUOMO: Well, I think that with Kudlow and Trump, I think it’s more than just about what they benefit from personally. It’s what they don’t want to deal with politically. I don’t believe that Trump and Kudlow see any upside to taking on this fight.

LEMON: Yeah.

CUOMO: They’d rather talk about force, dominate these people, these radical lefties; which is what they want them all to be, which is why they love Seattle because that thing is like a postcard to the…

LEMON: Yeah.

CUOMO: …right in terms of making the case against the left. And there’s no upside for him because he doesn’t believe these people will vote for him anyway.

LEMON: I don’t think it’s all about left. I just think they’re ignorant. I just think they’re ignorant. I think they’re old and they don’t want to change. And they’re set in their ways…

CUOMO: Why do you think…

LEMON: …and they’re benefitting…

CUOMO: …they’re all over Seattle on Fox News?

LEMON: No, what?

CUOMO: Why do you think Fox News is focusing on Seattle so much and why the President keeps talking about that?

LEMON: I don’t really care about Fox News. And actually, and actually I mean, and the President, what he keeps talking about, I don’t really…it’s hard to take him seriously in this moment because he is not…he is not meeting the moment. And I think that he is appealing to a very small section of this country. Most of the people don’t want to be stuck where he is and where Larry Kudlow is. I mean, they are…they are dinosaurs on…in so many ways. They are out of touch with the American people. And…

CUOMO: That’s the hope.

LEMON: …that’s it.

CUOMO: That’s the hope.

LEMON: No, they are. They are. Trust me.

CUOMO: That’s the hope.

LEMON: They are.

CUOMO: Because the minority cannot solve this problem themselves.

LEMON: No. Blacks can’t solve this problem. But I…I, I want to be optimistic about this because I…obviously, you know, I think blacks can’t solve the problem. But I think that we are at a different point now where white people actually are saying I want to change. I want to do better. They’re…they’re not denying that there’s racism anymore. The only people who are denying it are the relics; are the people like Trump and Larry Kudlow and I don’t really give a damn what Larry Kudlow says about race. He doesn’t really know that much about money, what he does now. So, why would I care about what he says about race? And this President, I don’t really care what he says about race because he is the birther-in-chief. He is the sons of bitches-in-chief. He is the shithole countries-in-chief. So, I don’t really care what he has to say about race because what he says is irrelevant. It’s ignorant anyway. So, you know, whatever. All I can do is call him out on his ignorance. 

A transcript of the relevant portion of Friday’s edition of New Day is below. Click “expand” to read more.

CNN's New Day With Alisyn Camerota and John Berman
08:01 AM

ALISYN CAMEROTA: Joining us now to discuss so many things, a man never before seen at this hour of the day, CNN’s own Don Lemon, anchor of CNN Tonight. Don, it’s great to have you here. I assume you’ve been up all night waiting for us.

DON LEMON: I have.

CAMEROTA: It’s great to have you. So, look, you…

LEMON: Good morning.

CAMEROTA: …on your show often talk about issues of race, issues of policing. And so, I’m wondering what you think of these weeks since George Floyd’s death. Do you see, everything that John just laid out, a sea change in this country yet?

LEMON: I do see a sea change, and I see a…a President who is, quite frankly, at the very least, tone deaf. When you…when you see all the people around him, the people he respects the most, the generals, the military folks, even people who are in his inner circle, disagreeing with him on how he handled protesters in Washington when he wanted that photo-op by gassing then and moving them off the…the streets, and for really not meeting the moment right now. So, I think that right now, the President is probably the person who is doing the most harm when it comes to race relations, police relations, in this country right now because he is simply behind the times. Not only is he not in 2020, he’s not even in 1968.

JOHN BERMAN: But sea changes, though, Don, seem to be happening despite him or in opposition to him. When you have…

LEMON: Right.

BERMAN: …Senators, Republican Senators saying “no, no, we really do think the names of army bases should be changed from honoring Confederate generals.” When you have Kevin McCarthy, the leading Republican in the House, saying, “you know what, I do think we should ban chokeholds.” These changes are happening no matter what the President says.

LEMON: Well, they are. And they’re…they’re sensible changes. I mean, it’s not…it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a member, a black member or a Latino member, American, I should say, an African-American doesn’t want to enter a base that is…has a name of a traitor on it, or someone who didn’t think that they should be a full person, that they were three-fifths of a person. And so, I think that is only common sense; any of these things. And so, I…I think the President, what he’s doing, is appealing to a very small group in his base. I shouldn’t say a very small group. They’re quite, you know, it’s a large number. But it’s a minority of Americans in his base, and he’s not expanding his base by that. I don’t believe that most Americans see eye to eye with the President when it comes to these things. And when you actually look at them objectively, no one wants the name of a traitor or someone who lost the war, who…or who actually fought against America in the Civil War, on…on a military base or on a school or on a park or anything. I mean, it makes complete sense. And I think that the GOP, although they had been silent for most of his presidency, I think they’re actually waking up now because they realize that public sentiment and actually history is not really on his side.

CAMEROTA: Don, I’ve heard you and some of our other great voices like Bakari Sellers, say things to your white friends, I mean, say to them, broadcast them, “please, white people, stop calling me and asking what you can do, asking how did this happen, asking like, oh, my gosh, I’m so surprised, this is all so shocking.” And I think that it has been revealed that this…these past few weeks have been a very steep learning curve for some of us. You know, some of us who considered ourselves pretty open minded and kind of educated, we have learned a lot over these past few weeks. And I’m wondering if you…

LEMON: Yeah.

CAMEROTA: …hear the conversation around white America changing as well.

LEMON: I do. And…and listen, that’s partially a joke saying stop calling me, because I always want you to call me. I mean, Alisyn, we’re friends. I want…

BERMAN: Not me.

LEMON: …you to call me, John, as well. We’re friends. I would like you to call me. If you’re…No. But if you’re going to ask someone, if you…you know, if you know someone, then why not ask? I don’t really mind. It’s just shocking to me that people have not, you know, that this is an epiphany for some people. So yeah, and I have heard these conversations. Listen, white people are so scared right now to do anything, to talk about anything, to…to broach these conversations, to even…they’re sort of frozen because they…who wants to be called a racist, right? Who wants to be called…who wants people to think that they have a racial blind spot? But this is what I think. I think that this…this is going to sound weird, but, you know, every year, the…I have hydrangeas in my yard, and they come back a different color, or a tulip, or an orchid. And it’s not because they’re different. It’s because the soil is different. Right? It depends on the nutrients in the soil. So if you grew up in America, you came out of American soil, how…considering the history of this country, then I think we should start thinking…changing the, the thinking here and how can you not be racist? How can you not have racial blind spots? How can you not see that the factory reset in America is whiteness? And so, until we realize that what…what our forefathers said, a more perfect union is about not necessarily perfection, but making things better for all people; being inclusive to everyone. A more perfect union, which means that, quite frankly in America, whiteness should not be the factory reset or the norm. It should be Americans of all stripes, and…and we should be more inclusive. So, I…I think that this is…I’m actually optimistic about it. I think this is a learning opportunity. Obviously, it’s sad that George Floyd had to lose his life over it, but I’m actually optimistic about what may come.