Don Lemon says his critics are motivated by homophobia and racism
CNN anchor Don Lemon has said that critics are often motivated by homophobia and racism.
The news anchor spoke about his identity as a black gay man while speaking to students at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics on February 22.
Speaking at the event, Lemon said: “Your always wonder how you’re being perceived [by the public].
“A lot of the criticism of me is warranted. Other times I think it’s based in homophobia, a lot of it, and I think a lot of it is also based in racism.”
“I tend not to pay attention to that, and let things roll off my back.”
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The anchor also addressed the challenges he faces in becoming an unintentional spokesperson for black gay people, after facing a backlash for his views about comedian Kevin Hart.
He said: “What’s interesting to me, what people don’t understand, is it’s a very odd space I exist in.
“I’m the only person like me in prime-time, on cable. I’m a unicorn! It’s just me.
“I’m black, and I’m gay. Black folks have a certain expectation of me—many feel that I should represent all black people, and it’s the same thing with gay people.”
Lemon continued: “Most journalists who are not of colour and don’t happen to be gay don’t understand that, because no one expects them to be the representative for all white people… but they expect me to be the representative for all black people or all gay people.
“That’s a weird position to be in, and if I say something that’s factual that the diaspora of people don’t like, they tell me ‘you’re not black enough’ or ‘you’re not gay enough’ or ‘you’re not down for the cause.’ It’s really, ‘this is my job.'”
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He added: “Everyone comes at life seeing life through a different lens. We all have different lenses.
“There’s nothing wrong with having a perspective on things, as long as you don’t let that carry or obscure your thinking or what you do. I realise I’m black, I realise I’m gay, all of that.
“But I also realise that when I’m sitting in front of the camera, my job is to be a journalist and a conduit for the people.
“It’s to bring those aspects to the table, but not to let them be the biggest part. The biggest part [of my job] is to inform the American people.”
Lemon came out as gay to the public in 2011, but the anchor told the students he had been out in his personal life for longer.
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He said: “There are levels of coming out.
“When I started in the business, I wanted to be me, and I came to New York City so I could be me, and be out.
“So I was out to my co-workers and friends, but never out to my family. As that progressed, I came out to my family, and then I came out publicly.
“It was difficult in the beginning. Even my representatives, when I came out publicly in 2011, people would say, ‘do you want to be known as the gay anchor?’
“Back then it was ‘no’, but now it’s like, ‘sure, why not!’ That’s how things change.”