Louis CK was in a bar in the Hamptons (you know, the Hamptons, where fabulous celebs hang out). He walked up to a black woman, stuck his hands in his pants, vigorously rubbing his genitals, then pulled it out and shoved his fingers into her face, right under her nose, and asked, “Do you like pussy or dick?”
Oh wait. It wasn’t Louis CK. It was Don Lemon. And it wasn’t a black woman, but a white man named Dustin Hice. Otherwise, the facts don’t change, just the faces and names. Does that change what happened?
“The plaintiff in this lawsuit has previously displayed a pattern of contempt for CNN on his social media accounts,” a CNN spokesperson told Mediaite in a statement. “This claim follows his unsuccessful threats and demands for an exorbitant amount of money from Don Lemon. Don categorically denies these claims and this matter does not merit any further comment at this time.”
Suit was filed against Lemon for the assault after settlement discussions broke down. It has yet to be served on Lemon, but CNN wasn’t waiting for the shoe to fall before trying to preemptively seize the narrative. In the process, they did something that lawyers will recognize as being particularly disturbing; they leaked half the settlement negotiations.
A source close to Lemon told Mediaite that Hice demanded $1.5 million from the CNN host in exchange for not filing the suit. Lemon refused, the source said, claiming he had done nothing wrong.
Sounds pretty extortionate when they put it that way. It would sound less so if they had mentioned that the offer to settle was $500,000 (there are more “sources” than just the one from CNN, you know), a not-insignificant sum of money for someone who had done nothing. It seems covering up Don Lemon’s bizarre and disgusting conduct mattered, but he just wasn’t worth any more than half a mil to CNN.
But what about his “pattern of contempt” for CNN?
As for CNN’s claim that Hice’s social media accounts displayed contempt for the network, a Twitter account under the name Dustin Hice has been deleted. An Instagram post from January 2017 purportedly posted by Hice — and obtained by Mediaite — showed him posing in front of CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta along with the caption: “touring the #CNN center today…or as #Trump would say ‘the home of Fake News’ lol.”
Does one insta post constitute a “pattern”? And was the post antagonistic toward CNN at all? It’s something of a media trick to first characterize words that are ambiguous to suggest a negative context, and then, and only then, mention what the words are. As for deleting his twitter account, partisans will seize upon anything to rip someone to shreds, joke or not, context or not, completely batshit crazy “inferences” going further and further from anything remotely related to reality. Or not. Why would anyone want to subject themselves to this?
And given the times we live in, the absence of facts serves in the minds of the unduly passionate of proof of secret malevolence, and CNN isn’t below working the Roger Ailes playbook for all its worth. Are there any other circumstances where a “legitimate” media organization like CNN could smear the “victim” with tangential claims calculated to impugn his motives on the basis of the absence of evidence and get away with it?
But there’s one huge gaping hole that’s managed to elude coverage. This happened in a public place, a bar, Murf’s Backstreet Tavern. You know what they have in a bar? People. You know what us lawyers call people who see something happen? Witnesses. This didn’t happen in a dark alley or a dorm room, it happened in Murf’s. There are witnesses to Lemon doing this.
Granted, this is still the Hamptons, and the locals don’t make any money pissing off the crazy celebs doing bad things in their establishments. After all, Hice is just some bartender working a summer job, and Don Lemon is, well, Don Lemon.
Whether all the people who watched this happen will be willing to come forward to testify and risk the ire of Lemon, his friends, CNN searching their social media accounts to smear them and save them the extra million, is another matter. And it costs a lot less than whatever it would take above the $500,000 they were more than happy to pay to silence Hice to dig up some social media dirt to taint others as they smeared Hice.
After all, it’s not as if Lemon is Louis CK, which would have changed everything.