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Don Lemon, a prominent African American CNN anchor who hosts a prime-time program for the news network, has waded into this week’s tumult over Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden’s working relationship with segregationist senators.
Biden, consistently the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, ran into hot water this week when he discussed working with those you might not agree with. He used the example, from decades ago, working as a young senator with the racist Democratic senator from Mississippi, James Eastland.
Affecting a southern drawl in telling the story, Biden said Eastland “never called me ‘boy,’ he called me ‘son.'”
“Boy” was commonly used as a racial epithet to denigrate African American males.
In the midst of the controversy, Lemon on-air said he said Biden ought to be given the benefit of the doubt.
“I understood what, well, former vice president Joe Biden was trying to say. I understand it. He did it inartfully, and many times in conversations we do,” Lemon said.
Lemon added that he made the same sort of mistake just a few evenings earlier byo comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler.
“I didn’t mean to compare Hitler to the president, but it was inartful. I was trying to speak about people who give misinformation and propaganda. And you tried to help me out,” Lemon said in an on-air discussion with colleague Chris Cuomo. “You’re like, ‘That’s an extreme. That was inartful.’ I didn’t mean in it that way and I think we have to — sometimes people say things in a conversation and you get what I’m trying to say, but people turn it into something else.
“And I get what Joe Biden was trying to say in the same vein. And what he did was inartful by saying ‘Boy,’ right? So if he didn’t say ‘Boy,’ I think it would have landed differently. What he was saying was, ‘I can work with these people who were terrible. They were beyond racist, right? They were beyond what we have in the Senate and in the Congress right now, and if I can work with them then I can definitely work with the folks there.’
“So I think, you know, as we said the other night, you and I, got to give people a little bit more leeway. We should be nicer. We should be kinder and figure that out,” Lemon added. “And if you say something that was inartful and something comes out of your mouth that’s stupid that happens when you’re live. You know that happens all the time. Probably me more than you. You say, ‘That’s not what I meant.’”
Biden is one of nearly two dozen Democrats seeking the presidential nomination, for the chance to take on Donald Trump in the general election.
At least a handful of his rivals have criticized Biden for his comments, including Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, who are both African American.