CNN anchor Don Lemon on Monday night broke with the network’s head over the live broadcasting of President Trump’s coronavirus press briefings, calling it “a plot” and warning that Trump is “never, ever going to tell you the truth.”
“I’m not actually sure, if you want to be honest, that we should carry that live. I think we should run snippets. I think we should do it afterwards and get the pertinent points to the American people because he’s never, ever going to tell you the truth,” Lemon told fellow host Chris Cuomo during their nightly handoff.
He pointed to Trump’s sparring with media during the question-and-answer periods of the briefings, saying the president reacts to questions negatively “because he wants his base to think that the media is being mean to him and they’re attacking him.”
“It is all a plot. It is all orchestrated. And if you can’t see it, I don’t know what you’re looking at,” Lemon claimed. “It’s obvious, it’s transparent to me . . . those press briefings have become his new ‘Apprentice.’ They’ve become his new rallies. And he treats the press and the media as if he’s talking to the people at his rallies. It’s the same thing. It’s no different except the audience isn’t there.”
After Cuomo pushed back, saying that there is “too much of a need for information” to broadcast the live pressers, Lemon went further, saying he is not “frustrated,” but is just “pointing out the obvious.”
“Pointing out the obvious, especially as a journalist, is not being political. If we don’t do that, then we are not doing our duty as journalists to point that out,” Lemon argued. “That’s our job to point that out. That’s exactly what he’s doing.”
He then began impersonating Trump, challenging Cuomo to ask a “real question” and responding with what he called a “stock answer.”
“I don’t like wasting people’s time and I don’t like people being bamboozled. That’s it,” Lemon stated. “. . . Whether he gets reelected, that’s not on me. People can vote for whoever they want as their president but as a journalist, I want to make sure that they’re getting the right information, their time is not being wasted, and that the administration is not using our airwaves to have the president promote things that aren’t necessarily true. That’s it.”
CNN chief Jeff Zucker told employees on Monday that while “it’s a very difficult decision, as of now, we are going to continue to carry those briefings.”
Trump’s polling numbers have risen in recent weeks, with overall positive views on his handling of the coronavirus. Last week, Trump scored a net positive approval rating for the first time in the Washington Post-ABC News poll.
CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash praised Trump after a coronavirus press briefing earlier this month, saying his tone is one “that people need and want and yearn for in times of crisis and uncertainty.”