Don Lemon’s Ethics Foul Wasn’t “Insensitivity.”

I know, Don...it hurts.

I know, Don…it hurts.

[I am typing this in an airplane, sitting crunched in a bulkhead seat crushed between the wall and a 275 pound guy in the middle seat. If you thought my typos were bad before…”]

Between my logging off the blog to go to the airport and now, as I thought about what I would write about CNN anchor Don Lemon’s awful ethics alarm failure while questioning Joan Tarshis, one of Bill Cosby’s growing list of alleged victims,  Lemon apologized. That was fast, but I assumed the barrage of criticism heading his way would be furious, and it was. His apology was a non-apology apology, by the way, a classic “I’m sorry you misunderstood me” that, you should notice, didn’t include an apology to Tarshis.

I didn’t misunderstand him. Lemon wasn’t being insensitive; he is in the throes of cognitive dissonance, just like Whoopi Goldberg. Bill Cosby is someone he admires, and sexual assault is something he deplores. If Cosby is a sexual predator, then Lemon has to resolve his dissonance: he can either lower Cosby in his estimation, or elevate what his hero almost certainly did to all these women to the “not that bad” category. (The latter was the choice of most of Bill Clinton’s conflicted offenders, by the way. Lying about sex is normal! Other presidents cheated! It was consensual! Monica seduced him: he was a victim! It was personal conduct...etc.)

As a victim of sexual abuse himself, Lemon didn’t have the latter option, and apparently he isn’t ready to accept that his hero is tarnished. Thus he is taking the route of the bitter enders at Penn State, who deny Joe Paterno’s culpability for allowing a child predator top run amuck, and the approach of Barack Obama’s tragic loyalists. He is in denial. Cosby must be innocent, and Tarshis’s story isn’t credible. Come on! Why wouldn’t she fight him? Use her teeth! She’s lying.

That was why Lemon asked such an offensive, ignorant, dumb question, asking why the 19-year-old being forced into oral sex by a mega- star didn’t gnaw his penis off. In the annals of outrageous Monday morning quarterbacking, this has to be a classic. Gee, I don’t know, Don: maybe she was afraid? Since she now knew this famously nice guy was anything but, what else might he be capable of? He was rich and powerful: how did she know that he wouldn’t beat her to death and then pay a few hundred thousand out of pocket change to make her body disappear? Or perhaps she didn’t want to be known for the rest of her life as the woman who bit Bill Cosby’s dick off. Lemon was trying desperately to find an explanation that would relieve his dissonance, and the crisis shut off his ethics alarms. It was a terrible, assault question, borne of desperation.

This is what ethics corrupters like Cosby,  Paterno, and Clinton do: they corrupt those who trust and admire them, and warp their values so they hurt others, and wound their own credibility. Don Lemon is another of Bill Cosby’s victims.

15 thoughts on “Don Lemon’s Ethics Foul Wasn’t “Insensitivity.”

  1. I’m just having trouble reconciling his path of thought. “Ok…. So….. Bill Cosby is still a Hero, but sexual assault is still bad. Therefore Cosby is innocent. She’s lying. OK. How best to prove this? Well, she could have chewed his dick off. Yes! That’s an acceptable thing to say on TV!”

    I understand everything before the OK, I just don’t see how a guy as experienced in being in the public eye does the math and figures cock-biting is the way to proceed in that interview. I vote stupid as well as dissonant.

  2. The main problem is that we are picking heroes for the wrong reasons. Cosby plays characters on TV. He is a good actor. He is not those characters. We need to be looking for heroes for reasons beyond ‘they catch balls really good’ and ‘they play excellent characters on the flickering box in the living room’. What about all the innovators, the real humanitarians, the self-made entrepreneurs? Why can’t they be heroes for what they have done? Why can’t we pick admirable human beings and elevate them as heroes? Most of my heroes are not well-known public figures. I knew a man who was one of the first solid-state physicists who helped develop the transistor at Bell Labs. As a small child knew a man who was a test pilot for Fairchild and took me to the unveiling of the A10 Warthog at the plant (and who credibly claimed to be the first man to loop a helicopter). I met Ewing Kauffman once as a teenager and was very impressed with his knowledge, accomplishments, and his attitude towards life. I had a pastor who started a small mission and ended up running a leading relief effort to an entire country. These are the people I admired growing up and tried to emulate.

    Now, I have been suspicious of Cosby most of my life. My grandfather wouldn’t let me watch ‘The Cosby Show’ at his house. I asked him why. He told me that in the ’70’s, Ford hired Cosby to come give a speech at the plant where he worked. He was really popular for ‘Fat Albert’ in those days. After the speech, Cosby shook hands and signed autographs…for the black workers. He refused to shake the hand or give an autograph to the workers who weren’t black. Most of the workers were shocked. This was completely contrary to the public persona Cosby cultivates. My grandfather held a grudge against Cosby as a sham, so I always wondered who the real Cosby was. It was also a good lesson in the difference between a TV character and the actor who plays that character. The Cosby Lemon admires is a fictional character. His mental disconnect is that he is equating Cosby the man with Cosby the marketing device. He can’t imagine Cosby the fictional character ever committing such an act (because the Cosby character could not). He probably can’t admit the difference because all his other heroes are fictional as well.

    • “What about all the innovators, the real humanitarians, the self-made entrepreneurs? Why can’t they be heroes for what they have done?”

      Well, they’re rich of course. 1%ers. We hate them.

    • That was a well-written, spot on comment about Lemon’s cognitive dissonance. I totally agree you. We as a culture admire the on-screen personae rather than the individuals. That, though, is not really new. It has been going on forever but in the ever-growing celebrity-as-hero environment, along with the 24 hour inundation of star-worship, it is hard, sometimes almost impossible, to separate the public figure from the person. This happened with Michael Jackson – how could he do such despicable things to boys? He dances so well.”

      jvb

      • Don’t we do that with even people we know too? That is why so many rape and molestation victims are so loathe to come forward. “I know Frank, he’s such a good guy! There is no way he could have raped someone!” “I love my grandma, she might some bad things about certain groups, but she can’t be an actual racist!” We, as human beings, have a very hard time with cognitive dissonance.

        http://www.vox.com/2014/11/20/7246681/rape-victims-bill-cosby

        This isn’t just a Bill Cosby problem. The same pattern plays out, over and over again, every time we’re asked to confront allegations against someone we care about. We want to enjoy our Woody Allen and our Roman Polanski and our Penn State football. We don’t want that enjoyment tainted by a sense of complicity in the terrible crimes they are accused of.

        The same thing is true of allegations against our friends, family, and co-workers: if we believe these accusations, then that means we have to re-evaluate our own lives and relationships, and do the work of deciding if and how to remove the perpetrator from them.

        But if we dismiss or disbelieve or even just ignore the allegations, then we don’t have to do that work, or make those sacrifices. It’s easier, even if it’s wrong.

    • His television portrayals are certainly a part of it. However, many conservatives are fans of Cosby’s well-known personal remarks regarding young blacks disparaging education, embracing street lingo/jargon and making other poor choices that impact their futures.

      Some see it as yet another attempt to smear a conservative-leaning black man (ala Herman Cain, Clarence Thomas…”It’s always sexual harassment with the conservative black males”, etc). Though I’m not convinced Cosby is all that conservative, it is true that his opinions attract those on the right.

      And the things he has to say are so important. Unfortunately, they’ve now been tainted by a man who is probably guilty. People who hear them will dismiss them now because the reputation of the messenger will overshadow the message itself

      • “People who hear them will dismiss them now because the reputation of the messenger will overshadow the message itself”

        That was the exact thought I had. That’s how conservatives get destroyed. They/we can never live up to our ideals. Alinsky was right.

        But, is it a rationalization to say at least they/we have ideals?
        Yeah, it is.

      • This is one reason why I’m not 100% convinced of his guilt. The women (and possibly the people in their party affiliation) have much to gain and little to lose. This, coupled with the timing. With so many women leveling these accusations, why didn’t we see a steady trickling of them surfacing, rather than all at once? Why not strike within the statute of limitations for criminal charges? Anyone else notice that they’re all “struggling actresses”, none of whom ended up doing any actual acting? It’s no secret that women without exceptional acting ability attempt to broach into the field by offering sexual favors. Personally, I think it’s possible that, individually, they didn’t feel they had enough corroboration to make a solid case, knowing that they might lack the resolve and confidence that comes with an accurate recollection of the events to make a solid case. The casting couch stuff is still deplorable, but it’s sexual politics, not rape.

        • What’s the number of accusers up to now?

          I imagine this, when over, will consist of a core of women with legitimate accusations and then a handful of bandwagonners. Too bad too, the bandwagonners can only hope to undermine those who have just claims.

        • It really hasn’t been “all at once”. Some of these allegations have been out for years.

          Anyone else notice that they’re all “struggling actresses”, none of whom ended up doing any actual acting? It’s no secret that women without exceptional acting ability attempt to broach into the field by offering sexual favors. Personally, I think it’s possible that, individually, they didn’t feel they had enough corroboration to make a solid case, knowing that they might lack the resolve and confidence that comes with an accurate recollection of the events to make a solid case. The casting couch stuff is still deplorable, but it’s sexual politics, not rape.

          I think that line of thinking, right there, is why most of the women have been reluctant to come forward and or report the rape to the authorities. Cosby was a very esteemed, respected individual, and these women were nobodies. In the method of predators everywhere, Cosby knew exactly what kind of prey to pick. The women were ambitious, hungry actresses, they knew the guy, they met him in his hotel room, or allowed him into their’s…and so on. In the minds of many, they were obviously “asking for it.”. But the only real question is, did they actually consent to having sex with Cosby? Did he drug them to the point where they were unable to give any sort of consent?

          All these women show tales of a very similar MO on the part of Cosby. I find it highly unlikely that they were all just making it up whole cloth.

    • I knew a man who was one of the first solid-state physicists who helped develop the transistor at Bell Labs.
      ****************
      I did, too.
      His name was “Dad”.
      🙂

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