Apparently, we currently live in a “post-racial” America where a prominent national television news anchor can ask an American Muslim human rights lawyer whether he supports a terrorist organization simply because he happens to be a Muslim.
Because that is exactly what happened to me recently with CNN anchor Don Lemon.
During my nationally-televised January 7, 2015 interview with Don Lemon on “CNN Tonight”, I was asked to join Don for a live one-on-one interview on the aftermath of the tragic Paris terrorist attacks against the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo.
If you watch the video of my CNN interview below, I spent the first two-thirds of the interview (4 out of the 6-minute segment) categorically condemning the Paris attack.
Right off the bat, I stated categorically that I was “shocked and horrified” at the Paris attack and that it was “against any normative teaching of Islam”.
Continuing my barrage of superlative condemnations, I continued to call the Paris terrorists “irreligious criminals committing acts of mass murder” and finally ended the first two-thirds of the CNN interview by calling the Paris attacks a “crime against humanity”.
How much more condemnation do you want from a Muslim guy?
But true to form, this was not enough for CNN host Don Lemon.
Around the 4:45 mark of my now-viral CNN interview, Don Lemon was asking me about a Russian news agency poll which claims that 16% of French Muslims show sympathy for ISIS and then proceeded to ask me the question heard around the world:
“Do you support ISIS?”
Now to be completely honest with you, I totally thought that I had misheard him because surely there was no respectable journalist in the world who would ask a Muslim human rights lawyer whether he supports an organization which violates human rights each and every day.
But then I remembered that I was dealing with Don Lemon.
So I responded to Columbia Journalism Review’s 2014 “Worst Journalist of the Year” by saying:
“Wait…Did you just ask if I support ISIS?”
This was the extent of the response that I wanted to give to such a blatantly tone-deaf question which is the moral equivalent of asking a white person “Do you support the Ku Klux Klan?”
Anybody with common sense can see the logical absurdity of asking an American Muslim human rights lawyer whether he supports an organization which violates human rights every day.
Such an obviously absurd question certainly deserves no response.
Thankfully, this is where the Internet took over.
In less than 24 hours, there were nearly 5,000 media articles written condemning Don Lemon for his asinine question in major publications such as BuzzFeed, Deadspin, The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today and more. Most of these articles called the ISIS question just the latest in a series of major Don Lemon on-air gaffes; including his previous theory about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 perhaps flying into a “black hole” or once asking an alleged Bill Cosby rape victim why she didn’t bite off the comedian’s penis whilst being allegedly raped by him.
So very quickly, I had now become the “human rights lawyer who supports ISIS” in thousands of Internet memes and responses on Twitter and social media.
To highlight the bipartisan uproar against Don Lemon’s question, former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele condemned Lemon’s question when he said on Twitter:
From the political left, Glenn Greenwald noted that I had “vehemently condemned” the Paris attacks and said:
After nearly 15 years of journalism and thousands of media interviews, I can honestly say that I have never become more “famous” than after this latest Don Lemon gaffe. It is a sincere honor to be added to the litany of famous “Malaysian-black-hole-penis-biting” Don Lemon media gaffes which can be added to his audition tape for his next job at FOX News Channel.
So from the bottom of my heart, I want to publicly thank Don Lemon for making me famous with his patently offensive racist dumb-ass question.