[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.