During an interview with Joan Tarshis on Tuesday -- who came forward on Sunday to accuse Bill Cosby of rape -- CNN anchor Don Lemon said, "You know, there are ways not to perform oral sex if you didn't want to do it." (According to a transcript of the exchange, he was referring to the idea that Tarshis, who alleges that Cosby forced the oral sex on her while she was drugged, could have used her teeth.)
Lemon prefaced his statement with, "Can I ask you this? And please, I don't mean to be crude, OK?" but the segment has kicked up a storm online, as critics charge that Lemon giving tips to a rape victim on how to have avoided her abuse is "outrageous" -- and further calcifies the perception that, for a reporter, he has a loose tongue.
Lemon "might as well have asked Joan Tarshis, 'Did you try not getting raped by Bill Cosby?'" wrote Gawker's Rich Juzwiak.
Others took to Twitter:
They call him Don Lemon because his takes are sour and distasteful. It's an insult to lemons IMO.— Simon V-L (@simonwilliam) November 19, 2014
There are ways not to ask offensive questions if you didn't want to do it, Don Lemon. Meaning the use of the teeth.— Tim Carvell (@timcarvell) November 19, 2014
Don Lemon missed the obvious follow-up: Why didn't Cosby's accusor try to throw him into a black hole? http://t.co/7PFrSWndCf— daveweigel (@daveweigel) November 19, 2014
The CNN anchor, who joined the network in 2006 and has been tagged as one of its stars, has been here before. In June, following leaked footage showing the pop star Justin Bieber using the word "n-----," Lemon wrote a column that asked: "If You Want People Like Justin Bieber to Stop Using [the N-Word], Shouldn’t You Do The Same?" That prompted several thoughtful responses, including from Yesha Callahan at The Root.
In the wake of the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Lemon wondered -- on air -- if the plane had been sucked into a black hole, speculation that was widely seen as hitting the bottom of CNN's continuous coverage.
CNN head Jeff Zucker wasn't pleased either, reportedly telling Lemon, “Don, don’t be an idiot.”
During Tuesday's interview, Tarshis took Lemon's comments in stride. "Oh. Um, I was kind of stoned at the time, and quite honestly, that didn't even enter my mind," she said. "Now I wish it would have."
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