Don Lemon’s dumb response to being called dumb

When President Trump assumed office, I resolved to begin watching CNN’s talk shows. Why? Because I wanted to make sure I heard reasoned criticism of the new administration.

After about two weeks, I concluded that there was precious little reasoned criticism of Trump to be found on CNN. Typically, the network served up bloated panels with each member trying to outdo the others in mindlessly attacking the new president.

Finding CNN unwatchable, I turned to Charlie Rose. He was insufferable, but asked mostly intelligent questions to mostly intelligent guests. We all know what became of Charlie, however.

By then, I realized that I could get my fill of anti-Trump content — some reasoned, some not — just by reading the Washington Post every day.

Of all the folks I watched during my brief flirtation with CNN, Don Lemon struck me as the least intelligent. Thus, although President Trump’s recent statement that Lemon is the dumbest man on television covers a vast amount of territory, I’m not about to quarrel.

Lenon, naturally, is quarreling. But he’s doing so in a way that reinforces Trump’s assessment. Lemon claims that it is racist to call an African-American dumb, regardless, presumably, of whether he is. He said:

The president has called a lot of people stupid. Some of those people are white. But I would just like to note that referring to an African American as dumb — remember this is America — is one of the oldest canards of America’s racist past and present: that black people are of inferior intelligence.

Here’s what Lemon is saying: Racists believe African-Americans are intellectually inferior to Whites. Donald Trump has called a few of his African-American critics, as well as some of his Whites ones, dumb. Therefore, believes African-Americans are intellectually inferior to Whites. Therefore, Donald Trump is a racist.

The fallacy in the third sentence is so obvious even Lemon should have been able to avoid it. But had he avoided it, Lemon wouldn’t have been able to play the race card.

Lemon also cited Trump’s attacks on NFL players who kneel during the national anthem all of whom, I believe, are Black. But this isn’t evidence of racism. It just shows that Trump believes the kneelers aren’t showing sufficient respect for America. He’s attacking conduct, not race.

Lemon pointed to Trump’s statement that some of the Whites who attended the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville are “fine people.” But it’s very likely that some of them are.

Lemon is assuming that everyone at the rally was a racist. But the organizers of the rally packaged it as a protest against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Thus, in all likelihood, the rally attracted people who aren’t white nationalists, but just wanted to defend the memory of General Lee.

Generations of Southerners were raised to consider Lee a hero. Thus, he is still admired widely in the South (not entirely without justification). Some of the people who admire him greatly are racist, I assume, but others are fine people who have nothing against African-Americans. I know such people.

I’m not saying it was appropriate, after what happened at the rally, for Trump to proclaim some of the attendees “fine people.” But it isn’t racist to make statements about certain White people that are probably true.

Nor is it racist, when attacked by a Black person one considers unintelligent, to call that person dumb. No race carries with it an exemption for individual members from being judged on their particular merits.

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