The mispronunciation of a common Italian dessert is one thing.
Explaining the whole “Why didn’t you bite Bill Cosby’s penis?” question is quite another.
Both were addressed in a candid profile of CNN’s Don Lemon in the May issue of GQ.
Let’s get the pronunciation of “sorbet” out of the way first. Lemon insisted to the writer, ironically named for another dessert — Taffy Brodesser Akner — that “sorbet” is pronounced “sorbette.” He was so convincing that even Taffy doubted herself.
One of my colleagues wondered, “Is he dumb?”
Taffy forces dessert at lunch at the Museum of Modern Art. Lemon is a tough sell. He wants to keep his girlish figure intact, but Taffy prevails.
He leans in, big warm smile, not wanting to correct me, but needing to: “Sorbette,” he says, like a news anchor. “It’s pronounced sorbette.”
“Sorbette,” I repeat, shaky. I smile, not quite understanding the joke.
“Sorbette,” he says with the confidence of a man who informs hundreds of thousands of Americans each night about what is happening across this land as well as many others. “It’s pronounced sorbette.” Sorbette! Could he be right? I’ve been saying it like a French word for years, like a complete asshole. Have I, a native English speaker, a graduate of a four-year college, a frequent eater of frozen desserts, been mispronouncing it all this time?
Or we can leave room for the possibility that he is just plain wrong.
…Here comes the waiter, and he asks if we’ve decided, and Don Lemon asks for the sorbette, and the waiter looks at Lemon like, Are you joking? I give the waiter the silent, wide-eyed micro head shake—No, he’s serious, proceed with caution—but the waiter has guts that I don’t, and so he says, ‘It’s sor-bay, sir.'”
…But Lemon is not embarrassed. “Oh,” he says, and then nods, because you learn something new every day, and he doesn’t look at me to say how embarrassed he is, he doesn’t look with a gulp at the tape recorder, he doesn’t attempt a joke to clean it all up. He just says, ‘That’s what I’ll have, then.” And we move on.
There’s no easy way to move from Lemon’s completely fucked up pronunciation of sorbet to how he could so easily ask one of Cosby’s alleged rape victims why she didn’t bite the comedian’s pecker.
So we’ll just get right down to it.
As swiftly and smoothly as Lemon handled the sorbet flub, so too was his explanation of how he asked the alleged Cosby victim why she didn’t use her teeth. As viewers may recall, the anchor revealed on live TV that he’d been sexually molested by a teenage boy in the neighborhood.
So the teeth question? No sweat.
After some pressing, Taffy gets the real answer out of him after the sorbet.
Later, after dessert, I ask him again, and finally I get the real answer: Lemon tells me that when he was a child and was being forced to perform oral sex on his abuser, he told that fucker that the next time, he’d bite his dick off, and that’s when Don Lemon stopped getting molested.
Lemon only really grows prickly on the topic of his politics.
He claims he has no political affiliation despite voting for President Obama twice and Reagan once. When Taffy points out that his politics sound conservative, he pushes back on the assumption.
“People expect me to be liberal because I’m gay,” he says. “And I’m not liberal.”
But over lunch, when I describe his values as conservative, he objects to that, too. “You keep saying I have conservative values. I don’t. I think I have values that are important and realistic. And they’re not necessarily spoon-fed by someone. I thought out what my values should be.”