Armchair quarterbacks are an infuriating breed.
There are few things worse than someone who just met you moments ago who suddenly understands Exactly What You’ve Been Doing Wrong. Such people are numerous. They are relentless. Their solutions are always both deceptively simple and perfectly impossible. “Did it never occur to you,” these people ask, “that what you should have done was USE YOUR MAGIC?”
“No,” you say.
You gulp. “Because,” you say. “Because. Obviously.”
Armchair quarterbacks are frustrating enough when their opinions are limited to football, or parenting, or even your career choices. Never mind talking about an experience like rape.
But Don Lemon of CNN has gone and done it. “You know,” he told Joan Tarshis, an alleged victim of Bill Cosby, “there are ways not to perform oral sex if you don’t want to do it.”
“Oh,” Joan said. “Um. I was kind of stoned at the time, and quite honestly, that didn’t even enter my mind.”
But Lemon did not stop talking. Clearly, he seemed to think, the trouble was that he had not offered enough detail. He went on to make certain Tarshis understood exactly, specifically what he was talking about.
Asking a question like that — “Hey, you know what you should have tried?” — is just irresponsible. It sets the blame squarely in the wrong camp. It’s a cousin of “What were you wearing?” and “Why did you have so much to drink, then?” Those are so far from being the questions that matter that light takes eight minutes to reach them. It’s your fault, those questions imply. It was on you to prevent this. No. No, it wasn’t. No.
It’s especially strange and stunning because Lemon has come forward as a survivor of sexual abuse. This just seems like a truly irresponsible way of framing this conversation, especially when you have a captive audience of millions of CNN viewers still wondering what became of that durned plane.
Understandably, the Internet was upset. Twitter flocked to the hashtag #DonLemonReporting, taking the premise and rhapsodizing on it, with Lemon offering advice to President Lincoln (“I’m not saying wear a helmet every time you go out, but if Lincoln wore one that night, he gets to see the whole play,” @JRehling quipped) and the Hindenburg (“Yes, but the Hindenburg could have just turned left, did anyone think to turn left?” asked @Owillis) among others.
That’s exactly how ridiculous it is.
“I had to ask,” Lemon concluded Tuesday night.
No, you didn’t. There are ways not to ask questions like that, if you don’t want to do it.
But you know how frustrating that is to hear.