The debate over President Trump’s rhetoric being divisive sparked a heated on-air battle between CNN’s Don Lemon and a panelist.
Trump’s visit to Pittsburgh in the wake of the deadly shooting at Tree of Life synagogue which left 11 people dead was the topic of discussion as Lemon wondered about the president being unwelcome by some in the city.
“Protesters gathered in the streets, some saying that the president would not be welcome until he fully denounces white nationalism,” Lemon reported, noting that “no public officials greeted this president at the airport.”
After allowing other panelists to agree with him that Trump’s visit to the grieving community did not come at the right time, Lemon turned to conservative economist Stephen Moore.
“Stephen, a Progressive Jewish group at the protest said that they would welcome the president if he denounced white nationalism once and for all,” Lemon said. “Why not just give a full-throated speech doing it and then denouncing white nationalism, that it’s evil?”
The CNN senior economics analyst noted that Trump has never used the phrase “white nationalism,” just nationalism, a term he used to describe himself as well.
“You know that’s not what I’m talking about,” Lemon said. “I’m not talking about him using the term. I’m saying him denouncing white nationalism––a full-throated denouncement instead of saying there are very fine people on both sides.”
“I don’t think in my lifetime — I’ve been in politics 45 years — I’ve seen a more politicized event, tragedy like this one. I mean from the moment this tragic, horrendous act happened, everyone started blaming the president for it, which is I think for most Americans a little bit over the top,” Moore said, calling out some of CNN’s coverage.
“The question that has been asked, and what people have said, on this network, is that they think the president contributes to a climate where this can flourish, not that the president is directly responsible to that,” Lemon said. “That is two different things and don’t pretend you don’t know the difference.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” Moore responded. “I don’t see the distinction here.”
“You don’t think it’s hateful to say the president is a racist, that he’s a xenophobe?” he asked. “Nationalism is not a racist term.”
“Nationalism at the very least is a politically incendiary and toxic word,” Lemon said.
“I think you have made it that way,” Moore argued, adding that “it’s become a politically incorrect term to say nationalism.”
“You just proved my point,” Lemon interjected. “You’re saying what I’m saying.”
The panel continued to go back and forth over the issue, often speaking over one another.
“I know Donald Trump. I’ve spent a lot of time with him,” Moore argued. “He’s not anti-Semitic. My goodness, his son-in-law and daughter are Jewish. His grandkids are Jewish.”
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Lemon shot back.
“Political correctness, being politically incorrect, is not carte Blanche to say things that are racist and stupid or homophobic or misogynistic,” Lemon argued at one point before claiming he was just citing evidence of Trump’s racism.
“Except his actions aren’t racist. He’s given us the lowest black unemployment rate,” Moore said.
“What does that have to do with anything? Thank you, President Obama,” Lemon exclaimed.
“If the evidence is there, what do you want me to do, lie about it?” Lemon concluded. “I’m a journalist. I have to give the facts and the truth. The truth and the evidence points to him being a racist. He’s a racist. His policies and his words are racist, end of story.”