Don Lemon has eviscerated former Republican senator Rick Santorum after he failed to apologise for his comments about Native Americans.
Santorum, who became a CNN political commentator in 2017, has been embroiled in controversy since he claimed that there was “nothing” in America before white colonisers arrived there.
Speaking at a Young America Foundation event on 23 April, Santorum said: “I mean, yes, we have Native Americans, but candidly, there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”
The backlash intensified when Santorum appeared on CNN broadcaster Chris Cuomo’s show Monday night (3 May).
During the slot, Cuomo told Santorum that his comments were “inaccurate” and accused him of “erasing diversity in the interest of some white, Christian right”.
Instead of apologising for his comments, Santorum said he “misspoke” and claimed that his comments had been misrepresented on social media – despite the fact that video footage of his speech is readily available.
Don Lemon was ‘furious’ watching Rick Santorum on Chris Cuomo’s CNN show
“I was furious watching that interview in my office,” Lemon told Cuomo, who appeared at the beginning of CNN Tonight to talk about the interview.
“I cannot believe the first words out of his mouth weren’t: ‘I’m sorry, I said something ignorant, I need to learn about the history of this country.’ No contrition, didn’t talk about the suffering that Native Americans have had to deal with in this country,” Lemon said.
“I mean Rick Santorum – really? Did he actually think it was a good idea for him to come on television and try to whitewash the whitewash that he whitewashed?
“It was horrible. It was horrible and insulting and I apologise to the viewers who were insulted by it, because I was sitting in my office furious because he’s done it so many times.”
Don Lemon went on to describe Santorum’s deflection attempts as “egregious” and hit out the offensive notion that white Europeans founded America.
“Europeans did not found this country!” the CNN Tonight host told Cuomo.
“It was here, the Native Americans had this country before the Europeans came. Yeah, the Europeans conquered the country, they colonised it, but it had nothing to do with the founding of this country, and he should recognise that. He needs to know that, especially if he’s going to be on television representing us and talking about it.”
A visibly furious Lemon added: “I was watching you going, ‘I cannot believe this man is sitting here doing this.'”
Defending his decision to have Santorum on the show, Cuomo said America is “in a crisis that is all about identity” and said the success of the right depends on whether they can convince white people that they are being “targeted”.
Cuomo noted that such conspiracy theories aren’t true – but Lemon said the American people already know that.
When Cuomo suggested that 70 per cent of Republicans believe the “big lie” that Donald Trump was cheated out of the presidency by a rigged election, Lemon said: “That doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t mean that people have to platform him.”
Tensions reached a climax as Cuomo claimed that the growth of the racist far-right in America is complex.
Lemon told him: “Listen, we’re not getting anywhere because seriously, I’m really mad.”
Cuomo told Lemon that they need to find a “solution” to the rise of the far-right – and Lemon replied: “I got a solution, but anyways, not my decision,” before ending the segment.