*CNN is not only happy with its controversial anchor Don Lemon, but the network’s president encourages the controversy.
“There’s certainly a lot of interest in Don Lemon, and that’s a good thing for Don and for CNN,” Zucker told GQ in a profile of Lemon. “You know, Don is a little bit of a lightning rod. Frankly, we needed a little bit of lightning.”
GQ’s piece, “Anchorman: The Legend of Don Lemon,” offers perhaps the most in-depth interview of the anchor done thus far. Writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner begins:
So maybe he’s not Walter Cronkite. Maybe he’s done some famously awkward interviews, gotten his facts wrong, and made CNN the butt of more than a few jokes. But that won’t stop Don Lemon. Because here’s the thing: He can fill hours of nothing with a crisp, news-like something. No matter what he says, no matter how badly he screws up, he never blinks. That’s his gift: He just keeps on going.
In the article, Lemon reveals he’s voted for President Obama twice, but doesn’t consider himself attached to any one political party. He was a Republican in college and voted for Ronald Reagan once.
“People expect me to be liberal because I’m gay,” Lemon said. “And I’m not liberal,” he continued, later objecting to the author’s suggestion he has conservative values.
“You keep saying I have conservative values. I don’t. I think I have values that are important and realistic. And they’re not necessarily spoon-fed by someone. I thought out what my values should be.”
Addressing his various missteps, Lemon basically said it comes with the territory:
“When you’re a network-news anchor, you have a twenty-two-minute news hole, and you read not even five minutes of copy, if you read that much,” Lemon tells me. “When you’re a cable-news host, you’re on for hours and hours and hours live. Right? Sometimes there’s nothing in that box, no words.”
On the time he said it “obviously” smelled like marijuana during the Ferguson protests, Lemon says he was using one of many of the filler words an anchor uses when he has to fill in dead air.
Lemon also said he’s a lifelong insomniac; a good night for him might be four hours of sleep.
Also, he’s dating a lawyer – someone who understands his busy schedule.
As for the backlash he’s received over telling black men to take more responsibility for their lives, “I didn’t think I was saying anything bad,” he said. “Just: Always respect yourself. Go to school … I think they’re used to me just having a one-way conversation, just reading the prompter and going, ‘Okay, what do you think?’ … Maybe they were just sort of surprised that I actually have a point of view.”
Perhaps the biggest revelation in the profile came during a discussion about one of Lemon’s most infamously awkward moments, when he asked a Bill Cosby rape accuser why she did not just use her teeth during oral sex. It turns out that suggestion had personal resonance for Lemon, who has described himself as a sexual abuse survivor:
GQ’s Brodesser-Akner wrote: “Lemon tells me that when he was a child and was being forced to perform oral sex on his abuser, he told that fucker that the next time, he’d bite his dick off, and that’s when Don Lemon stopped getting molested.”
Lemon hosts “CNN Tonight” at 10 p.m. ET.
Read the full GQ article here: