During her visit to Brooklyn Center, Minnesota on Saturday, Waters told reporters that if the former Minneapolis police officer isn't convicted in the death of George Floyd: "We've got to stay on the street and we've got to get more active, we've got to get more confrontational. We've got to make sure that they know that we mean business."
Waters said she was "hopeful" Chauvin would be convicted of murder, but if he isn't, "we cannot go away."
Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson invoked the congresswoman's remarks in a motion for a mistrial following closing arguments Monday. Judge Peter Cahill denied the motion, though he acknowledged to Nelson that "Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned."
During CNN's coverage, Lemon lionized Waters as a "sharp-tongued, rabble-rousing lawmaker who came out of the Civil Rights movement" and had to fight "tooth and nail" as a Black woman for everything she has gotten.
"While I, as a Black person, can understand her rage and her anger ... and I understand that she makes a lot of people uncomfortable ... [but] do you really think Maxine Waters is calling for violence?" Lemon asked. "Maxine Waters is not calling for violence. Everyone knows that. She makes a lot of people uncomfortable, especially a lot of men and quite frankly, especially a lot of White men because she puts them in her place. She tells you, 'Shut up!' ... and she gives it to you like it is!"
Lemon did concede that Waters' remarks were not "constructive" and that she should have "absolutely not" said what she did because she "handed" "ammunition" to her enemies.
"Maxine Waters is not the issue here," Lemon told colleague Wolf Blitzer before comparing her to a "fight" in the stands at a baseball game in terms of being a distraction.
He went on to attack Waters' critics, who he insisted mostly "supported" the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill.
"Was it strategist for Maxine Watters to say what she said in this moment? No. She needs to be more responsible with her words," Lemon continued. "She should know better ... but was Maxine Waters really calling for people to loot and riot? I think most people with half a brain knows that's not what she was doing."
He added, "I don't want to sit here and criticize and demonize Maxine Waters for speaking the truth, for where she comes from and what she is and the urgency for people to get out and demonstrate and demonstrate in the right way, not causing riots and violence."
PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor similarly defended the Democratic congresswoman with an attempted "fact-check" of Chauvin's defense team.
"Eric Nelson is now using Rep Maxine Waters saying that protesters should get 'more active' & 'more confrontational' if Derek Chauvin isn’t convicted as a reason for a mistrial to be declared. He’s claiming she threatened violence. Fact check: Waters did not threaten violence," Alcindor wrote.
Fox News' Evie Fordham contributed to this report.