Don Lemon Explains Gaffes: ISIS Question, "Teeth" Advice to Bill Cosby Accuser and More

Associated Press
Don Lemon

The CNN anchor explains several of his controversial on-air comments in an interview with GQ.

Despite the string of controversies that have embroiled CNN's Don Lemon over the past few years, he isn't one to be intimidated by the anchor seat.

In a recent interview with GQ, Lemon explained his laundry list of controversial on-air comments as simply the result of having "a point of view" and being severely misunderstood for it.

"I think they're used to me just having a one-way conversation, just reading the prompter and going, 'Okay, what do you think? What do you think?' " Lemon said. "Maybe they were just sort of surprised that I actually have a point of view."

Here's a quick rundown of the controversies Lemon clarifies in his GQ profile:

1. Regarding his response to one of Bill O'Reilly's attacks on black culture, in which Lemon offered his own tips for "black people" to combat racism ("pull up your pants" and "finish school" being among them), Lemon says his intention wasn't to add more fuel to the fire. "I'm speaking to the people from where I came from," he tells GQ. "I didn't think I was saying anything bad. Just: Always respect yourself."

2. Regarding the question Lemon raised on-air as to whether it was possible that a black hole had swallowed missing Malaysian Flight MH370, Lemon says that he hadn't come up with the question himself — it had actually been submitted by a Twitter user. 

3. Regarding the time he asked Muslim-American civil rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar if he supported ISIS, Lemon says he did so because he found it necessary to follow up on Iftikhar's nuanced responses. "His answer was so nebulous," he tells the magazine, and he was seeking clarity. 

4. Regarding his comment that there was "obviously" marijuana in the air while conducting on-site reporting at the protests taking place in Ferguson, Missouri, Lemon tells GQ he was simply using a filler word that many anchors use to fill dead air.

5. Regarding the time Lemon asked an alleged rape victim of Bill Cosby why she didn't revert to the "usage of the teeth" as a way to stop unwanted sexual assault, Lemon tells GQ he was speaking from his own experience: Lemon says he had been a victim of sexual abuse at a young age (a fact he revealed for the first time on-air while issuing an apology to the Cosby accuser), and that the attacks stopped only after he threatened to use his teeth to protect himself.

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