The only time I’ve ever felt sympathy for Rand Paul was when he was interviewed on CNN by Don Lemon, who decided to provoke the Libertarian because that was what he thought it was necessary to do, in much the same way a parakeet senses it must chirp. It was sound and fury and signified nothing, theater aimed at making it seem something important had occurred. That, in essence, is the meaning of modern cable news.
In Jeff Zucker’s clown car of infotainment, Lemon passes for a star, not because the anchor is right–he almost never is–but because he gets attention, making stupid comments about race and gender and religion and anything else that slips from his face hole.
What can you do with such a person, apart from turning away? You can write a sympathetic-if-devastating portrait of him as Taffy Brodesser-Akner has at GQ. The opening:
So I say to Don Lemon, I say, let’s do it, Don Lemon, let’s have dessert. We’ve been here awhile, eating lunch, and we’re having a good time, so likable is Don Lemon, so open is he to my questions, so warm is his smile. And maybe he can be coaxed into it. We are at the restaurant at the Museum of Modern Art, and the portions are modern-art-sized, and he just had his photo shoot yesterday—he’d suspended all manner of salt and other bloateries in the days leading up to it and would love to cut loose a little. But he still needs persuading, since it is a known thing that dessert is one of the principal sacrifices of people who regularly appear on TV. But he relents, because Don Lemon is not the kind of guy who will make you eat dessert alone. The negotiation: He’ll do it, but it’ll have to be light. I look up and down the menu and suggest that the sorbet looks promising, given his totally understandable criteria.
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. This is Don Lemon, after all, the news anchor whose name has become associated with what might politely be calledmissteps, like asking an Islamic scholar if he supports the terrorist group ISIS, or declaring on the scene at Ferguson that there’s the smell of marijuana in the air, “obviously.” This is the guy who asked if a black hole could be responsible for the disappearance of Flight MH370; who asked one of Bill Cosby’s alleged rape victims why she didn’t stop the attack by, as he put it, “the using of the teeth.”
Yes, we have to allow for the possibility that Don Lemon might be wrong.•