The incident, which is being investigated as a hate crime, occurred during the same week that 13 potential explosive devices were sent to prominent Democratic and media figures across the country and 11 people were killed in a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. A white man was charged in the latter case.
“I keep trying to point out to people not to demonize any one group or any one ethnicity. But we keep thinking that the biggest terror threat is something else — some people who are marching towards the border like it’s imminent,” Lemon told CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, referring to the Central American migrant caravan walking toward the United States. He added that “the last time they did this, a couple hundred people came and they — most of them didn’t get into the country. Most of them got tuckered out before they even made it to the border.”
“So,” he said, “we have to stop demonizing people and realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men, most of them radicalized to the right, and we have to start doing something about them. There is no travel ban on them. There is no ban — you know, they had the Muslim ban. There is no white-guy ban. So what do we do about that?”
On Wednesday, following the backlash, Lemon doubled down.
“Earlier this week, I made some comments about that in a conversation with Chris,” he said during a broadcast Wednesday night. “I said that the biggest terror threat in this country comes from radicals on the far right, primarily white men. That angered some people. But let’s put emotion aside and look at the cold hard facts. The evidence is overwhelming."
Lemon pointed to a recent Government Accountability Office report that shows that since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, far-right violent extremists have killed 106 people in 62 attacks in the United States, while radical Islamist violent extremists have killed 119 people in 23 attacks.
He also referenced several studies, including a 2017 report from the Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund and the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal, which found that from 2008 to 2016, there were almost twice as many terrorist incidents carried out on U.S. soil by right-wing extremists — many of whom are white — than by Islamist extremists.
It showed there were 115 incidents involving right-wing extremists and that those that ended in death were more deadly than incidents carried out by other groups.
“So people who were angered about what I said are missing the entire point,” Lemon said about his earlier statements. “We don’t need to worry about people who are thousands of miles away. The biggest threats are homegrown. The facts prove that.”
Still, Lemon’s remarks about terrorist threats ignited an uproar among many conservatives.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who survived a shooting targeting Republican lawmakers who were practicing for a Congressional Baseball Game in 2017, posted a link to a story about Lemon on Twitter — commenting simply with an emoji showing wide eyes.
And Donald Trump Jr. said in a tweet Wednesday that he thought it “was some sort of joke quote taken out of context but no . . . it’s just Don Lemon being a moron.”
“Unfortunately this is how so many leftists actually think,” he continued. “Disgusting! Imagine the outrage if you changed ‘white men’ with any other demographic?”