CNN host Don Lemon on Wednesday night showed that he could benefit from a day or two in Television Media Criticism Senior Seminar. Seeking to make a point about our increasingly disconnected media spheres, Lemon lamented the allegedly sparse coverage on Fox News accorded to the announced resignation of White House Communications Director Hope Hicks.
“I was sitting in my office and watching all of the news channels, right? Trump TV or state-run TV — they’re not even reporting this. So Trump supporters, they don’t even know about these stories, it doesn’t even register. That’s the amazing thing: We cover all of these things every day, the White House imploding behind him and he’s standing there going, ‘Nothing to see here,’ but his supporters probably don’t even realize the extent of it,” said Lemon in a chat with colleague Chris Cillizza and Josh Green, Bloomberg Businessweek correspondent* and author of “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Nationalist Uprising.”
It would appear that Lemon was talking about Fox News:
Oh, how wrong he was. And oh, how easy it was to provide proof.
Fox News programs, in fact, treated the Hicks news with an appropriate level of emphasis. On the network’s flagship evening news program, “Special Report with Bret Baier,” chief White House correspondent John Roberts went into extensive detail into Hicks’s planned departure, hitting all the main points. After he delivered the basics, Baier discussed with correspondent Catherine Herridge the development and its relation to the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. And that’s not an exhaustive rundown of mentions, either.
With his ill-advised lapse into media criticism, Lemon was walking out on one of journalism’s high wires: The sweeping negative statement. “They’re not even reporting this” — that’s a very easy statement to disprove. All that’s required is to show that Fox News covered the resignation once, and Lemon has committed a falsehood. Before the Erik Wemple Blog dares make such broad-brush statements, we check transcripts with multiple keyword searches, ask the people involved whether it’s true, obsess some more — and then proceed to sweat a great deal when the statement is published.
On Thursday afternoon, Lemon tweeted his regrets:
A CNN spokeswoman says Lemon will issue an on-air correction.
In perpetrating his bogus sweeping negative assessment, Lemon was expressing a common criticism of shows like “Hannity” and “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” which do indeed sometimes ignore negative developments in Trump world to launch into topics — what a nasty piece of work that Hillary Clinton is, for example — that continue to drive audience. Yet even the news side of the network can intrude on this bubble, as when Hannity was forced to report, via correspondent Ed Henry, that President Trump had indeed sought the dismissal of Mueller, despite Hannity’s own protestations that such claims were unfounded.
And another thing. Fox News still has its seat on the front row of the White House briefing room, where Roberts awaits his turn pushing — often quite doggedly — press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on the controversy of the day. The network doesn’t dispatch him there just for appearances. Once he’s done gathering his string, he reports it.
Though he’s not prone to ALL-CAPS typing, Roberts deployed it over Lemon’s allegation.
Please excuse the duplicated tweet, which is included to suggest that Lemon make explicit amends to Roberts.
*Correction: Post originally indicated that Green worked for Bloomberg View.
Updated to include information from CNN spokeswoman.
Read more by Erik Wemple: