It's probably been a slightly bittersweet holiday week for CNN host Don Lemon. While it may have been wonderful personally, but he also got some scathing, pre-Christmas professional criticism handed to him — Don Lemon was named worst in journalism in 2014, by no less than the Columbia Journalism Review, an award which probably doesn't boast too many cheerful recipients.
Lemon wasn't the only news personality or institution to draw the CJR's ire in the end-of-year wrap-ups, though that might be cold comfort for him. David Uberti handed out the honors this year, on the site's Darts & Laurels blog, and other people got a little roasting as well — Rolling Stone, for example, for their now infamously bungled story on an alleged fraternity rape at University of Virginia, as well as 60 Minutes, for their failing to interview actual Liberian locals during a segment on Ebola in West Africa.
Lemon, however, holds a pretty special place, as it's been a truly rough run for him lately. Basically, he's spent 2014 running his viewers through a master class in how not to broach sensitive topics, whether the outcome is badly offending someone, or just looking a little silly. Here are some of Lemon's 2014 lowlights for CNN — here's hoping for a better 2015!
1. Was Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Swallowed By a Black Hole?
The most generous thing you could possibly say about this is that Lemon appears at least to know what he's saying isn't credible, and maybe he had somebody yelling in his earpiece — "ask about the black hole thing!" Absent that, however, the clumsy way he approached the subject did nothing do smooth things over.
A lot of people have been asking about that, about black holes and on and on and on, all of these conspiracy theories. Let's look at [these tweets], Noah says, "what else can you think? Black hole, Bermuda triangle." And then Deji says, "huh, just like the movie LOST." Of course, it's also referencing The Twilight Zone, which has a very similar plot. That's what people are saying. I know it's preposterous, but — is it preposterous, do you think, Mary?
For the purposes of journalistic housekeeping, it should be noted that LOST isn't a movie. And, while there was a famous Twilight Zone episode (remade for the 1980s film) set on an airplane, it's plot bears no coherent similarly to MH370 — unless Lemon is actually suggesting a sinister gremlin sabotaged the wings of the missing plane.
2. Sometimes You Need to Strike a Child, Just Like Training a Dog
While the last one was just silly, this one is sadly far from funny. Lemon and his guests were discussing the child abuse indictment of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in September, and the value of corporal punishment in society. Lemon insisted that such punishment was sometimes necessary, comparing child-rearing to dog training. And in doing so, he got both painfully wrong.
Listen, I went to training, I hate to do this, with my dog, and fear is the same thing — you have to teach who's in control.n It doesn't matter whether it's fear or what have you, I'm saying this, because it stops you from doing it.
3. Here's How Not to Talk to an Alleged Rape Victim
This one comes with a trigger warning for... well, being profoundly bad to an alleged rape victim on national television. Lemon interviewed Joan Tarshis in November, one of over 25 women who've publicly mounted rape accusations against comedian Bill Cosby. And he decided to ask her a stunning question, after Tarshis alleged she was forced to perform oral sex on Cosby — why didn't she bite it off?
You know, there are ways not to perform oral sex if you didn’t want to do it.
Tarshis replied that she was "kind of stoned" at the time, but said she wished she'd thought of that. But Lemon wasn't willing to let the awkward moment pass without making sure his audience absolutely understood what he'd meant.
Right. Meaning the using of the teeth, right? ... As a weapon. ... Biting. So, um...
At the conclusion of his off-putting, victim-blamey questioning, Lemon concluded with maybe the least plausible claim of all: "I had to ask."