CNN host Don Lemon opened up about his past on Monday, saying he was a victim of child sexual abuse, in a debate about the molestation allegations against Roy Moore.
“Here’s why this upsets me,” he said. “And this is no secret — except to new people who are watching — that I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse. No one, no matter how old you are, wants to come out and admit that publicly. It is just not something that is done, especially when you’re talking about something that happens at that young an age.”
It’s not the first time Lemon has referenced his own history when reporting sensitive stories.
In 2010, the CNN anchor spoke about it on the air while interviewing members of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church about sexual abuse allegations against the pastor, the late bishop Eddie Long.
“You want me to tell you what got my attention about this? And I’ve never admitted this on television: I am a victim of a pedophile when I was a kid — someone who was much older than me.”
Lemon’s most recent remarks came as he was speaking to Ed Martin, president of the conservative group Phyllis Schlafly Eagles. Martin made an argument that if someone admits to such accusations, “there ought to be a standard.”
“But if someone denies it,” he added, “we shouldn’t — I’m not saying Roy Moore should be only believed.”
“Yeah, that’s what you’re saying,” Lemon interrupted, before explaining why the defense upsets him.
“Here you are sitting here on CNN twisting yourself in a pretzel to try to defend something that is indefensible,” he said. “Not one person wants to come out and say that — not two, not three, not four, not five, certainly not 12 women.”
Moore, Alabama’s Republican candidate for the Senate, has been accused of numerous instances of sexual misconduct, in some instances involving teenagers.
Following Lemon’s explanation of his sensitivity to the topic, Martin asked for the opportunity to clarify.
“Please, Don, if you’re going to say that to me on national television, at least give me the chance to say something back,” he said. “I have never said that we shouldn’t — when someone alleges, especially childhood abuse … I’ve never said we shouldn’t honor that and investigate it. It should be done. But what I’ve said is when the litany of things rolled out, a lot of them by non-minors, the question is: Who do you believe?”
“I don’t disbelieve the women,” he added. “I’m just saying that the people of Alabama get to vote on who they want, and we’ll see what happens. And to call someone a child molester is really outrageous.”
Martin said in a statement to The Washington Post that such accusations leading up to a contentious election amount to “what I call a political ‘hit’ done to sway voters.”
“Rarely do these kinds of political hits allow accurate considerations of facts or truth,” he said. “I recognize this in the Roy Moore election and think they should be seen as such.”