CNN anchor Don Lemon said Friday that he did not like name-calling, but immediately pivoted to explain why a Texas Democrat might have referred to Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott as an “Oreo.”
Lemon joined hosts Brianna Keilar and John Berman on CNN’s “NewDay,” and he addressed the story of Gary O’Connor — Lamar County, TX, Democratic Party chair — who had used the racial slur in a Facebook post directed at Scott. (RELATED: Don Lemon Slams Pope Over Same Sex Marriage: ‘God Is Not About Hindering People Or Even Judging People’)
“I had hoped that Scott might show some common sense, but it seems clear he is little more than an oreo with no real principles,” O’Connor said in response to Scott’s claim that America was “not a racist country.” He has since apologized for the comment.
“Let’s keep in mind he apologized but he called Republican senator Tim Scott, who is black, and did the rebuttal to Joe Biden’s joint address to Congress, he called him an Oreo. This is the Democratic Party chair. What did you think about that?” Keilar asked.
“God, it’s early for these,” Lemon complained with a laugh. “Obviously, you don’t need the name calling. Any time you call someone a name, any time you do that, you don’t want to become them. You stoop to their level, you give your competitors ammunition and you give them a talking point and you become them. So I don’t think it’s helpful to call anyone names. There are ways that you can hold people to account that you can call people out by not using names. I do it all the time.”
Keilar pushed back, saying that the larger point appeared to be that O’Connor was suggesting that Scott, because he was black, should be a Democrat.
“I think that is a Republican talking point when people say if you are — if you are black, you should be a Democrat,” Lemon objected.
Keilar pressed again, asking Lemon to explain what O’Connor had meant by the term “Oreo.”
“Oreo is, he’s black on the outside, white on the inside,” Lemon explained, going on to argue that he thought it was about where Scott stood on issues that affected African-Americans.
“If you are voting against your own interests. If you are upholding a party that has really been not even — trafficking — has been trafficking in racism, an insurrectionist party. A party trying to restrict the voting rights for people who look like you,” Lemon continued.
“I’m going to be honest. Maybe if you’re sitting around the kitchen table and you’re black and with other black people, they may say the same thing. ‘What is wrong with this you-know-what, the term he used?'” he asked, appearing to argue that it would be understandable for black people to refer to Scott in that manner, but that they should not do so in public.
Lemon concluded by saying that public use of that term and others like it would likely damage Democrats and hand Republicans a talking point.
“Tim Scott should be held accountable for what he is doing and if he is voting against the interests of his own people. That is something that’s valid and should be talked about,” Lemon said. “The name-calling is something different. It should be kept out of the public sphere.”