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The Lemon-Haters At The MRC (With Added Tucker Love)

The Media Research Center has long hated Don Lemon, so when CNN fired him the same day Fox News fired Tucker Carlson, its treatment and tone was markedly different from the pearl-clutching over Tucker.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 8/11/2023

In contrast with the reverential fanboy treatment it gave to fellow right-wing ideologue Tucker Carlson, the Media Research Center has long despised Don Lemon -- it repeatedly attacked him after he came out as gay, spread bogus allegations of sexual assault even after the allegations were proven to be false, and baselessly insisted that Lemon moving from an evening newscast to CNN's morning show was a demotion. Here are some of the attacks the MRC launched on Lemon just since the start of this year:

Of course, Lemon did not help himself at times. The MRC hurled a lot of abuse at him for describing Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley as "past her prime,:" and there were alleged conflicts with co-hosts, which the MRC eagerly ate up (for maximum mockery, of course, with one item regarding it carrying the sneering headline "SAD TROMBONE" -- not that it actually cares about the women since they work for CNN and thus presumably deserve what they get). MRC writers lapped up gossip about whether Lemon's days at CNN were numbered, with one podcast asking, "Is It Time to Fire Don Lemon?"

The MRC's Kevin Tober cheered in one February post: "CNN’s low-rated morning host Don Lemon has a history of on-air outbursts and privately berating his co-hosts for interrupting him. On Thursday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson got in on the fun by mocking “diva Don Lemon” for his apparent fragile mental state."

Which made for an interesting bit of irony when both Carlson and Lemon lost their respective cable-news jobs the same day. And where Curtis Houck reported on Carlson's dismissal with sadness and reverence, in the same post he rehashed old attacks cheered Lemon's firing: "In contrast, Lemon’s ouster had been in the works for months given his demotion to the morning from his primetime slot Don Lemon Tonight where he had spent eight years smearing conservatives, being a race hustler, and spouting off conspiracy theories."

Carlson smeared people, engaged in race-hustling (via replacement theory) and spouted conspiracy theories too, but he conformed to right-wing ideology and thus would not be criticized by Houck for doing so.

That was swiftly followed by more grave-dancing from Geoffrey Dickens:

Don Lemon is gone! The longtime CNNer took to Twitter on Monday to announce he was fired. While Lemon claimed he was “stunned” by the move, the dismissal shouldn’t have been too surprising ever since he was demoted to the mornings back in November.

At NewsBusters the longtime CNN anchor has left a large footprint of biased outbursts. In fact the ex-CNN anchor has won our “Quote of the Year” award for two-years running.

Lemon may have worn out his welcome at CNN but don’t be surprised to see him picked up by another leftist outlet. Until then let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look back at Lemon’s heinous remarks that the network would prefer were memory-holed.

NewsBusters Media Editor Bill D’Agostino put together this brief montage of Lemon’s blathering.

The MRC did publish a couple more articles related to Lemon's firing:

Tim Graham demonstrated his employer's tonal split on the firings in his April 24 podcast:

The Tucker news seemed shocking, considering how it's been a ratings juggernaut for Fox. Media reporters suggested that somewhere in the "treasure trove" of internal messages that Dominion Voting Systems forced into view in their lawsuit, the Murdochs were less than pleased with how they were discussed.

The Lemon firing just seems delayed. The demotion to morning-show duty never seemed like it would work. There was no "chemistry," just chilly exchanges that demonstrated Lemon's diva tendencies. Other than his race and sexual orientation, it would have seemed logical for him to catch the bus out of CNN with Brian Stelter, John Harwood, and Chris Cillizza.

The tonal split continued in an April 26 post rehashing media appearances by MRC staffers opining on the firings in right-wing safe spaces:

On Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, the Media Research Center led the way in providing reaction to and instant analysis at NewsBusters, online, and on the radio about the bombshell firings of Tucker Carlson by Fox News and Don Lemon at CNN.

This included three spots from MRC Founder and President Brent Bozell, NewsBusters Executive Editor Tim Graham, and NewsBusters Managing Editor Curtis Houck on NewsTalk 105.9 WMAL in the Washington D.C. market, the leading conservative station in the nation’s capital and an oasis for conservatives in the Swamp.

Bozell cropped up on Tuesday morning’s O’Connor and Company and didn’t hold back. After exclaiming “what a day” Monday was, he declared “the narrative” around Carlson’s axing seems to be Fox executives “just wanted him out.”

Bozell jokingly called out the alleged internal dismay over Carlson’s personal messages: “What a crock that would be. A private email is a private email...If there is a single person who worked at the Media Research Center who has not sent an email criticizing me, I’m going to dismiss that person.”

As for Lemon, Bozell cut to the chase: “What a trainwreck of a network this is...Licht was brought on to fix a sinking ship and he’s just been poking more holes.”

That was followed by Graham making a bizarre claim:

Earlier in the show, Graham noted the ideological diversity between Fox hosts:
It’s really obvious this is Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News...Things can change depending on that the Murdochs want...It is interesting that you had...dramatic changes or differences of opinion from hour to hour. You don’t tend to see that on MSNBC. You don’t tend to see that on CNN.
“I think you can look at this and say, yes, it seems like a big deal, but it’s not something that’s really a threat to Fox in the sense that they let go of Bill O’Reilly, Tucker moved into the space, and then people tend to forget,” he said.

Huh? There's "ideological diversity between Fox hosts"? Needless to say, Graham offered no example of this purported "diversity," given that one must obviously be a committed right-winger to even be considered for a Fox News hosting spot. That was followed by the expected Lemon-bashing:

Graham then tied the two together:
With Don Lemon, everybody kind of gets the idea. He was a big diva. You know, everyone gets tired of him...I think, in this case, the tea leaves suggest that all of the internal e-mails and texts that came out in the Dominion case...probably angered them with his imperiousness or something.
As for Lemon, Graham quipped that something “we all wanted to hear” was Lemon “was past his prime” while, at CNN, “it’s the same” from under Jeff Zucker and “has not changed.”

That was followed by Houck serving up rote Lemon-bashing while similarly insisting there is ideological diversity on Fox News:

Houck said the longtime CNN host’s firing arrived like “a snowball rolling down the hill, gaining steam — an incoming avalanche” to illustrate CNN boss Chris Licht’s reign thus far as “an absolute failure.”

On Carlson, Houck called it “a difficult story” for Fox with plenty of backlash, especially with subscriptions to its popular streaming site, Fox Nation.

“I don’t think liberals or conservatives...don’t do enough introspection and realize...that people tune into Fox News at 8:00 for Tucker Carlson. They tune in. A lot of young people...tune in...for Tucker Carlson,” Houck said, noting how Fox created “a healthy media ecosystem” with differences of opinion between Carlson and even the host in the next hour, Sean Hannity.

Houck identified none of these purported "differences of opinion."

Falsely conflating firings

The MRC also wanted to create a false equivalence between the two firings -- even though Carlson was a highly rated (for cable news) host in charge of the flagship show on a highly partisan TV channel while Lemon had been, as the MRC had repeatedly reminded us, "demoted" to a morning-show slot on a more straightforward news channel. As a result, it complained when non-right-wing outlets wouldn't embrace that narrative. Kevin Tober huffed in an April 24 post:

The cable news landscape was shaken to its core Monday with the stunning news that cable news star and host of Fox News Channel's Tucker Carlson Tonight was out at the network. A short time later, CNN announced that CNN This Morning co-host Don Lemon was fired as well. During CBS Evening News's coverage of both developments, anchor Norah O'Donnell resorted to labeling Fox News as a conservative network, while seeing no need to use the liberal label for CNN.

While it's accurate to label Fox a conservative network in terms of its opinion-side programming, it wasn't honest or fair reporting to refuse to label CNN a liberal network when that's clearly what it is.

In fact, Fox News' "news" side is just as biased as its opinion side -- not a surprise given how many former MRC employees work in that "news" operation. And CNN's failure to not be as far-right as Fox News does not make it a "liberal" network; that's just the view from Tober's ideological position, which was made even more clear when he laughably called O'Donnell a "left-wing anchor."

Alex Christy complained that late-night comedians told too many jokes about Carlson's firing and not enough about Lemon's (and, yes, he counted them):

The Monday news media news surrounding Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon provided the late night comedy shows a golden opportunity to show they aren’t just liberal partisans. However, they would fail this test as individual jokes about Carlson outnumbered jokes about Lemon 32-to-2 with five additional jokes about both men.

Comedy Central’s The Daily Show temp host Desi Lydic came in with a 6:1 ratio. Her most notable jabs at Carlson included, “I can't believe that a network that’s so opposed to gender-affirming surgery just cut off their own dick. Though, apparently, Tucker was forced out by Rupert Murdoch, which is pretty ironic. Tucker spent so many years saying that Mexican people were coming to take our jobs away. Turns out, he should have been worrying about Australians.”

An April 25 post by Graham brought the MRC's hypocritical labeling complaints into the debate, grousing that the New York Times wouldn't portray Lemon as being as "far left" as Carlson is far-right:

William Donohue of the Catholic League pointed out the Tuesday New York Times demonstrated an obvious labeling contrast. On page A1 came the headlined "Fox News Ousts Carlson, a Voice Of the Far Right." But on B-1, there was no label in the header "Lemon Out At CNN; He Says He Is ‘Stunned’. "

In the piece by Michael Grynbaum, John Koblin, and Benjamin Mullin, Lemon was only "fiery" and "spiky," not liberal or far-left:


But the Carlson story by Jeremy Peters, Katie Robertson, and Grynbaum began: "Fox News on Monday dismissed Tucker Carlson, its most popular prime-time host, who became one of the most influential voices on the American right in recent years with his blustery, inflammatory monologues on immigrants, Black civil rights activists, vaccines and national identity."

There were five mentions of conservatives and their media in the piece, and two "far-right" uses in the copy:

He then cited a purported analysis by dishonest Catholic Donohue claiming that "We found over 200 examples of Carlson being called 'far right,' but only a few instances of Lemon being called 'far left.' PBS, NBC and MSNBC referred to Carlson as 'far right' but none referred to Lemon as 'far left.'" But neither Graham nor Donohue provided any evidence that Lemon is "far left" or that Carlson is not "far right." (Graham also didn't disclose that his boss, Brent Bozell, sits on the board of advisers of Donohue's right-wing Catholic League.)

Mark Finkelstein played the whataboutism card in an April 26 post, referencing Graham's post as a starting point:

Yesterday, our Tim Graham called out the New York Times' double standard when it came to the paper's descriptions of Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon. The former "Gray Lady"—now the home of red-hot wokeism—branded Carlson "far right." But when it came to Lemon, the Times merely called him "fiery," and "spiky," with no mention of his consistently left-wing views.

That same sort of double standard was on display at CNN itself today. In a CNN This Morning segment on Fox's firing of Carlson, repeated mentions were made of an alleged culture of misogyny and sexism at his show.

Fair-'n-balanced journalistic standards would have made it incumbent on CNN to discuss serious allegations of sexism and misogyny against its own fired host, Lemon. But not a peep about Lemon's transgressions out of his former co-hosts, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, or from CNN media reporter Sara Fischer. The focus was exclusively on Carlson's alleged misdeeds.

However Carlson might have transgressed respectful norms, it would appear to have occurred behind the scenes. In contrast, Lemon unleashed some of his feminist-frown material on the air, for all to see and hear.

Finkelstein didn't explain why Carlson is somehow less of a terrible person because he didn't display it on air. He then dismissed claims made about the working environment on Carlson's show made by a former show producer Abby Grossberg -- whom the MRC previously attacked as "disgruntled" -- as "not the most outrageous allegations imaginable," as if that makes it OK.

Still fretting over Tucker

Of course, the MRC was ultimately much more concerned about Carlson's firing. An April 24 post by Houck examined speculation over the firings -- but he gushed more about the speculation over Lemon while dismissing speculation about Carlson as coming from "liberal journalists" and "the ever-hacktastic Daily Beast." An April 26 post by Christy complained that NBC's Seth Meyers "piled on Tucker Carlson" with Democratic Rep. Katie Porter.

Kevin Tober breathlessly hyped Carlson issuing a brief message after his firing:

Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson broke his silence Wednesday night in a two-minute-long video posted to Twitter. In it, he torched the establishment media and what he describes as both political parties and their donors reaching "consensus on what benefits them and they actively collude to shut down any conversation about it." He ended the video with a hint that his future in conservative media was far from over.

Tucker started the video by remarking about his perspective since leaving Fox News: "One of the first things you realize, when you step outside the noise for a few days, is how many genuinely nice people there are in this country. Kind and decent people. People who really care about what’s true and a bunch of hilarious people also. A lot of those! It’s got to be the majority of the population even now. So that’s heartening."


Maybe Carlson will release a nightly monologue on Twitter. His monologues on his former Fox News show frequently made news and got people talking on Twitter. He can easily do that again by going directly to the newly liberated Elon Musk-owned Twitter.

It should be noted that as of publication, Carlson's video had over six million impressions, which was double what his old cable news show received on an average night.

Jeffrey Lord tried to manufacture a conspiracy about Fox News not being right-wing enough in his April 29 column:

One can only wonder, as many have, why in the world Fox would shut down its number one host. Tucker Carlson is a very popular conservative and a decidedly smart guy as well. All of which has been evident on his nightly show, and all of which his audience both understands and loves.


It boggles the mind that the people who created, own and run Fox News could be this far along in their creation and ownership of this network and not understand in a blink that the “blowback” from silencing Tucker could in fact be “this bad.”

All of which leads to the larger questions of what, exactly, Americans are really seeing as all of this drama unfolds. Is Fox deliberately turning its sights into becoming an “establishment” network?

That, I suspect, gets right to the real reason the Fox management cut Tucker loose. He was saying things on air that went against the grain of Establishment “truths”. Whether it was his opposition to the war in Ukraine, his thoughts on the transgender obsessions or saying that illegal immigrants were literally littering the countryside of the American Southwest, Tucker was fearless.

Notably he happily showed the January 6 inside-the-Capitol videos given to him by Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Tellingly others in the GOP leadership - like Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell - were livid at Tucker’s presentation of internal videos that directly contradicted the presentations of the House January 6 Committee. Tellingly, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer was so incensed that he demanded Rupert Murdoch take him off the air. And also tellingly, Schumer has now been granted his wish.

In fact, it's been proven that Carlson's cherry-picked videos don't accurately reflect the reality of the riot.

Luis Cornelio spent a May 1 post hyping speculation from podcaster Joe Rogan that Carlson might be moving to right-wing video site Rumble. MRC executive Tim Graham, meanwhile, ran to Newsmax to complain about leaked audio of unflattering behavior by Carlson and defending his right to be a nasty whiner:

NewsBusters executive editor Tim Graham appeared on the Newsmax evening show Eric Bolling The Balance to discuss Tucker Carlson's dismissal and the aftermath at Fox News, and whether Fox is becoming too "establishment."

Bolling ran video of the latest leak of Tucker running down the Fox Nation website, saying it's dysfunctional and it drives him crazy. Bolling said "the speculation is that Fox is leaking that stuff from the inside."
TIM GRAHAM: Well that's the weirdest stuff. It's like we're sitting here on a day where Trump is going to do a live town hall on CNN and Fox is leaking stuff to Media Matters? (Laughs) Where are we living?!

Look, I think, just like we heard Tucker saying nasty things about Trump in the text messages or emails in the Dominion suit. People should have a right to have moments where they're upset with people. Right? I mean, we all have this inside our own office. Sometimes where we're not happy with the way things are going, But there's just you blow off steam. It doesn't mean that you're going to be a disloyal employee. I mean, the people that should be seen as the disloyal employees are all the Fox people who talked to Brian Stelter for his nasty books!
Graham didn't explain what, if anything, in Stelter's book about Fox News was "nasty," or why those who spoke to him for the book were "disloyal" while Carlson wasn't.

After one leaked audio clip showed Carlson making racist-leaning comments, Mark Finkelstein took offense when "Morning Joe" featured it, using whataboutism to distract from it:

In the course of a long Morning Joe segment today focusing on an exposed Tucker Carlson text message to a colleague that the way some January 6th rioters were beating up an Antifa guy isn't "how white men fight," Michael Steele commented:
The fact that something like that could be sent to a colleague and it sort of sits there, and nothing happens or comes from it, and it's not until you get into this sort of adversarial, prosecutorial setting in which it becomes public or potentially becomes public that they see some reaction. So it really speaks to the culture inside the building in many respects that that type of communication doesn't rise to a point where, you know, he's brought in by the leadership of the company saying, what the hell are you talking about, how white men fight?"
If Steele is shocked that there would be no immediate corporate repercussions for Tucker saying that in a private communication between two people, how about a TV host bragging—live on the air—about how he would threaten and attack someone merely doing something he didn't approve of? Steele need look no further than across the morning's panel, at certified very-white-man Joe Scarborough.

Graham complained more about the leaks in his May 3 podcast:

Don Lemon's firing at CNN was not mysterious, but we're in week two of trying to figure out why Fox News parted ways with Tucker Carlson. Was he too insubordinate with the Murdochs? Did he use the C-word for women too often? It seems like nobody really knows yet.

New leaks to Tucker-hating liberal outlets and "watchdog groups" seemed intended to damage the ex-Fox host's standing, but conservatives largely found they liked him more. One video showed Carlson complaining about flaws on the Fox Nation website. Another showed him suggesting one man's wife looked "yummy"....then he took it back when he thought someone might find it from a satellite transmission. He told one Fox-hating watchdog group to...."GFY."

Graham ranted about the leaked Tucker audio and emails again in a May 7 post, with added indignance that Carlson was labeled (accurately, it can be argued) as a racist:

On Wednesday's World News Tonight, ABC reporter Terry Moran reveled in a leaked Tucker Carlson text message about a mob of white men beating up an "antifa kid." He claimed "For years...Tucker Carlson promoted racist views on his show, the highest-rated program on Fox...viewers had long heard Carlson give voice to a message of white supremacy, especially on the issue of immigration."

ABC anchor David Muir introduced the story with these words behind him on screen: "NYT UNCOVERS RACIST CARLSON TEXT."


To describe Carlson's show as "racist" in general is a smear not only of the host, but the audience that makes it "the highest rated program on Fox." In The New York Times, A.O. Scott said the same thing, only fancier: "His most successful on-air persona, perfected on Fox after the departure of Bill O’Reilly, has been a volatile mixture of upper crust and salt of the earth. Whiteness was the glue that held the package together, and in this text you can see it coming unstuck, even as Carlson tries to work through some inherent contradictions."

Graham went on to play whataboutism rather than actually try and prove Carlson isn't racist. You may remember that the MRC tried to lamely insist that the Carlson-promoted racist replacement conspiracy theory -- which seems to have inspired a gun massacre -- wasn't racist or a conspiracy theory.

Weeks after Carlson's firing, the MRC was still going on about him. Nicholas Fondacaro was overjoyed in a May 9 post when Carlson announced he was starting a new show on Twitter:

After Tucker Carlson was unceremoniously fired from Fox News two weeks ago, speculation swirled about where he would land. Many on the right thought he would be snatched up by a competitor like Newsmax, while detractors on the left fantasized about him going to a Russian-state media outlet. But on Tuesday, Carlson announced that he struck a deal with Twitter owner Elon Musk to bring the show to the free speech platform. This all comes as Carlson alleged fraud and contract violation by Fox News.

Tucker began his video announcement by declaring what many know to be true: “the news is full of lies” and notation that “you are being manipulated” by the news media.

Unmentioned by both Carlson and Fondacaro was the fact that Fox News has been a major source of those lies. The Dominion defamation lawsuit revealed how Fox News staffers and on-air talent knew that Donald Trump was wrong about the election being stolen but deliberately hid that from its viewers. Fondacaro only obliquely referenced this in noting that "Carlson’s lawyers delivered an 'aggressive letter' to Fox News alleging fraud and contract breaches stemming from their recent $787.5 million defamation settlement with Dominion Voting Systems."

Luis Cornelio spent a May 11 post complaining that not everyone is as excited about Tucker's return as right-wingers like him are:

Twitter exploded with reactions over former Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s decision to take his new show to the Elon Musk-owned platform.

Leftists are triggered by Carlson’s announcement that he will continue his show amid his abrupt exit from Fox News. The news was, as expected, met with hilarious animosity from fringe Twitter keyboard-warrior leftists — including Occupy Democrats, the infamous Alex Vindman and anti-speech advocates — who apparently couldn’t handle the fact that Tucker won’t be silenced and now are railing at Musk for supposedly promoting racism and so-called “hate.”

After conceding that Twitter chief Elon Musk has "clarified" there is no deal between Twitter and Carlson, Cornelio tried to portray Tucker on Twitter as some kind of threat to non-right-wingers:

Leftist talking heads understand how Carlson and Musk could threaten their monopoly over online information, which could explain Jack Posobiec. “Bring back Twitter streaming,” Posobiec tweeted. “Launch Twitter Live apps for Roku, Fire, Apple TV, etc Become the greatest video platform in the universe.”

A May 17 post by Tim Graham complained that former CBS anchor Katie Couric pointed out that Carlson "can't really be rehabilitated" due to his penchant to "lie to the public." Of course, he used whataboutism to deflect from all that: "That's a little rich, all the preaching about pandering to an ideological audience, as if she never did that at NBC or CBS."

Kevin Tober used a May 22 post to hype a "Tucker insider" making unsupported claims about why Carlson was fired:

On Monday, former Fox News host Tucker Carlson retweeted a video by author and Spectator contributor Chadwick Moore who revealed the title of his new biography on the former Fox News star. Within the two-minute video, Moore revealed that his sources told him that Carlson was fired due to the demands of voting machine software company Dominion as a condition of their settlement with Fox.

“I have spent the last researching and writing this book and during that time, I’ve gotten to know Tucker, his family, his friends, and his staff very well. In fact, I’ve gotten to know Tucker the person, not the character that his enemies try to portray. I was working closely with Tucker when he was taken off the air by Fox,” Moore revealed when giving viewers details about his new book.

In addition, Moore also revealed he’s “seen the monologue that Tucker planned to deliver on Monday, April 24 before his show was abruptly taken off the air.”

“That monologue dealt with among other things, investigations around January 6 and particularly Ray Epps. The only person captured on video inciting people to violence at the capitol that day and allegedly an FBI informant who still hasn’t been arrested or charged,” Moore added.

Speculation from Carlson has previously given the MRC license to dabble in Ray Epps conspiracy theories. Tober failed to mention that both Fox News and Dominion have denied that Carlson's firing was a condition of the Dominion settlement.

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