Don Lemon is setting the record straight on a CNN clip that angered President Donald Trump.
The clip shows Lemon and two guests weighing in on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and NPR host Mary Louise Kelly’s Ukraine discussion. The anchor called Pompeo’s suggestion that Kelly couldn’t find the country on a map a “petty attempt to put her down.”
Author Rick Wilson concurred: “He also knows, deep in 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,” he said. “He knows that this is an administration defined by ignorance of the world. So that’s partly him playing to their base and playing to their audience: the credulous boomer rube demo.”
Wilson and fellow guest Wajahat Ali, a New York Times and CNN contributor, traded quips in Southern accents, pretending to be Trump supporters slamming “you elitists with your geography and your maps and your spelling,” Ali joked.
“Your math and your readin’,” Wilson added. Lemon laughed and wiped tears from his eyes.
“Sorry, hold on, wait,” the host interjected through chuckles. “Give me a second, hold on. That was good, sorry. That was a good one. I needed that.”
Trump responded Tuesday to the clip, dubbing Lemon “the dumbest man on television (with terrible ratings!).”
His daughter Ivanka chimed in, slamming the “arrogance, mocking accents and smug ridicule of this nation’s ‘Real Elites.’ “
“You consistently make fun of half the country and then complain that it is divided,” she said.
At the start of Tuesday’s episode of “CNN Tonight With Don Lemon,” the TV anchor clarified that he wasn’t mocking Trump’s conservative supporters, merely laughing at a joke.
“During an interview on Saturday night, one of my guests said something that made me laugh” he said. “And while in the moment I found that joke humorous, 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.”
Lemon added that he doesn’t “believe in belittling people, belittling anyone … for who they are, what they believe or where they’re from” despite political differences.
“It’s personally important for me to address this,” Lemon said.
Lemon wasn’t the only one who caught flak for the clip.
Ali, who was featured in the video, tweeted Tuesday that his friends were “concerned about my safety” after the president shared the clip.
“I refuse to be intimidated and bullied by bad faith actors who cry fake victimhood, whining about a harmless, silly 30 second clip while endorsing Trump, a cruel vulgarian who debases everyone,” he wrote.
Wilson didn’t mince words either: He slammed the “fake outrage” surrounding the clip, claiming “the MAGA world wants the freedom to attack, insult, demean, and abuse anyone who doesn’t aggressively worship Donald Trump.”
“They can’t stand anyone who punches back, and hope they can intimidate or shame me,” he said.
This isn’t the first time the president has referred to Lemon as “the dumbest man on television” or referred to his show’s ratings to insult him.
In July, Trump criticized the TV host in a series of tweets after Lemon asked a question during a Democratic debate that described Trump as bigoted.
“What do you say to those Trump voters who prioritize the economy over the president’s bigotry?” Lemon asked Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
“CNN’s Don Lemon, the dumbest man on television, insinuated last night while asking a debate ‘question’ that I was a racist, when in fact I am ‘the least racist person in the world.’ Perhaps someone should explain to Don that he is supposed to be neutral, unbiased & fair,…..” he tweeted.
In a follow-up tweet, Trump continued, “….or is he too dumb (stupid} to understand that. No wonder CNN’s ratings (MSNBC’s also) have gone down the tubes – and will stay there until they bring credibility back to the newsroom. Don’t hold your breath!”
In May, Trump mocked CNN’s Chris Cuomo for “record low” ratings and labeled Lemon “the dumbest man on television.”
“Wow! CNN Ratings are WAY DOWN, record lows. People are getting tired of so many Fake Stories and Anti-Trump lies. Chris Cuomo was rewarded for lowest morning ratings with a prime time spot – which is failing badly and not helping the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon!” Trump tweeted.
And in August 2018, Trump called NBA star LeBron James and Lemon dumb after James criticized the president in an interview with Lemon on CNN.
“Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon,” Trump tweeted. “He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”
Contributing: Sara M. Moniuszko, Cydney Henderson