Accuracy in Media

President Donald Trump’s criticism of the media continued this week after a clip from a CNN panel went viral.

During the panel, part of CNN host Don Lemon’s show, “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon,” former GOP strategist Rick Wilson mocked Southerner’s accents and their alleged lack of knowledge and education. But it took Lemon at least a day before making a statement apologizing for the panel’s caricature of Americans who live in the South and Trump supporters.

Lemon asked Wilson about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s feud with a reporter, which allegedly involved Pompeo asking the reporter whether she could point out Ukraine on a map. Wilson said, “[Pompeo] also knows deep within his heart that Donald Trump couldn’t find Ukraine on a map if you had the letter U and a picture of an actual physical crane next to it.” Wilson continued, “He knows that this is, you know, an administration defined by ignorance of the world. And so that’s partly him playing to the base and playing to their audience. You know, the credulous boomer rube demo that backs Donald Trump.”

Lemon laughed after Wilson’s comment about “the letter U and a picture of an actual physical crane next to it,” and Wilson imitated a Southern accent and said, “Y’all elitists are dumb!” Fellow panelist and New York Times columnist Wajahat Ali chimed in and said, “You elitists with your geography and your maps — and your spelling!”

“During an interview on Saturday night, one of my guests said something that made me laugh, and while in the moment, I found that joke humorous,” Lemon said. “And I didn’t catch everything that was said… Just to make this perfectly clear, I was laughing at the joke and not at any group of people.”

Even if Lemon did not catch Wilson’s or Ali’s comments in real-time, one of his producers or other staff members could have gotten in his earpiece to inform Lemon. It was good that Lemon apologized, but it should not have taken this long for him to publicly apologize.

CNN has not apologized for the comments, nor has it condemned the mocking caricatures of Southerners.

By doing so, CNN endorsed the mockery of a part of America and thereby contributed to the divisive rhetoric found in today’s political environment. The panel’s dismissal of Southerners was disrespectful and lacked civility and decorum. Although Lemon apologized, the cable news network should have also issued a statement to calm the backlash from its critics.

Instead, Trump, his daughter Ivanka, and conservative critics blasted CNN for not correcting the panelists while on-air. Trump tweeted that Don Lemon is “the dumbest man on television” and noted Lemon’s “terrible ratings.”

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