CNN announced on Monday that Don Lemon will follow in the footsteps of MSNBC’s far-left opinion host Rachel Maddow as a Democratic presidential primary debate moderator -- and one critic called the decision a "disservice to voters all across the political spectrum.”
Lemon will join Dana Bash and Jake Tapper for the two-night event on July 30-31 from Detroit. Debate moderators are historically straight-news journalists, as opposed to partisan pundits, but CNN’s decision mirrors NBC’s strategy to allow Maddow to moderate last month’s Democratic Debate.
The New York Times reportedly forbids its reporters from appearing on both Maddow and Lemon’s programs, because they are considered too partisan even for the Times – which is often criticized for leaning left itself. Conservative strategist Chris Barron told Fox News that CNN’s decision is “a disservice to voters all across the political spectrum” because Lemon is so open about his own views.
“They are more interested in the political version of a church revival than an actual debate,” Barron said.
The far-left Maddow was front and center during NBC’s technical-issue-plagued debate and conservatives critics condemned her performance. BlazeTV White House correspondent Jon Miller told Fox News that Maddow “served up questions about her favorite conspiracy theories” that were “unbefitting of a news organization.”
Now Lemon -- who Trump once called "the dumbest man on television" -- will apparently be prominent when CNN has a chance to grill 2020 hopefuls. While MSNBC admits that Maddow is an opinion host, CNN has continued to label Lemon an “anchor” despite spouting anti-Trump opinions on a regular basis.
Media Research Center vice president Dan Gainor told Fox News that “if you didn't know better, you'd figure Don Lemon was added to the debates for comedy relief,” before offering another theory.
“He says so many things that even liberals are embarrassed by him,” Gainor said. “But in reality, we know why he was chosen. He was picked so CNN can remind its audience of liberals that it is part of the resistance.”
"He was picked so CNN can remind its audience of liberals that it is part of the resistance.”
CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In recent memory, Lemon has compared Trump to Adolf Hitler, then claimed he “didn’t mean” to compare the president and Hitler. He has also called Trump a “racist,” a “fraud,” “con man,” questioned whether or not the State of the Union should air on a delay to avoid “propaganda," declared that he wouldn’t shake the president’s hand and questioned Trump’s mental fitness.
Lemon has also suggested Trump doesn’t do enough work, speculated on whether or not the president lies about his weight, tied Trump to the college admissions cheating scheme and took a shot at Trump as he was giving his colleague Chris Cuomo a brief tour of his new studio, suggesting that the president can't afford such a lavish space since he isn't a "real billionaire."
Lemon initially gained broadcasting prominence as a news anchor, covering breaking news and reporting from the scene of major stories, but DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall recently told Fox News that Lemon is no longer a news anchor in the traditional sense because of his partisan rhetoric.
“He is a host of an opinion-driven show in which his opinions are front and center. Thus, he is a host rather than a news anchor,” McCall said. “His show does discuss news topics, but it is not designed as an objective news show.”
Lemon also has a history with some of the candidates expected to be on the debate stage, as he famously lobbed a softball by asking Cory Booker what it’s like being a vegan during a CNN town hall event. He was also criticized for pondering aloud whether or not Kamala Harris is African-American.
One certainty is that Lemon wasn’t selected to lift the debate’s viewership totals. Lemon’s “CNN Tonight” finished the second quarter of 2019 as the No. 35 most-watched show on cable news, averaging only 705,000 viewers.