CNN’s Don Lemon said Monday night he doesn’t think the network has ever been “liberal.”
Lemon joined Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show” when Colbert asked about new CEO Chris Licht, who has begun revamping the network and reshaping the lineup.
“Word on the street is that you guys aren’t allowed to be liberal anymore. Is that the case?”
“I don’t think we were ever liberal,” Lemon said.
“What?” Colbert said, seemingly shocked. “That’s not me saying that, that’s the people out there saying he’s not letting you be liberal anymore.”
“Well listen, I think what Chris is saying is that he wants Republicans — sensible Republicans, he wants us to hold people to account, but he wants people to come on and feel comfortable with coming on talking on CNN and appearing on CNN,” Lemon said. “So if you invite someone to your house, you want to make them comfortable but also by the nature of what we do, we have to hold people to account.”
“And so that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going liberal or conservative or whatever, it just means that we are doing what we do and that’s good journalism,” he continued.
“So accountable but not confrontational,” Colbert said. (RELATED: BREAKING NEWS: CNN Will Stop Pretending That Everything Is ‘Breaking News’)
“I think sometimes one must be confrontational,” Lemon said. “Look, I don’t think that a conversation on television should be any different than a conversation in person. Listen, I have confrontational conversations with people I love and I have uncomfortable conversations with people I love and I think it’s necessary. And I think it’s also necessary to do that on television, on CNN, but you can do that without being vitriolic.”
“I think not being vitriolic is maybe a better way of putting it, but you can do that and not have vitriol. As people say, you can disagree without being disagreeable. And so I think that’s what our mission is.”
Stelter’s firing came as Licht planned to give the network a more bipartisan tone and evaluated whether left-leaning anchors such as Stelter were too partisan. Stelter was known for criticizing former President Donald Trump and other conservatives. In 2020 he compared the “radicalization” of Trump supporters by the “right-wing media machine” to members of ISIS. He also accused conservative media of “riot denialism.”