‘I apologise to viewers’: CNN’s Don Lemon erupts at network for Santorum interview on Native American remarks

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‘I apologise to viewers’: CNN’s Don Lemon erupts at network for Santorum interview on Native American remarks

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CNN host Don Lemon apologised to viewers and erupted at his colleague Chris Cuomo following an interview with contributor Rick Santorum, who has faced growing calls to leave the network after his widely condemned remarks that “there was nothing here” when European colonisers “birthed a nation from nothing” upon arriving in what would become the US.

In a speech to a right-wing student group last month, the former Republican senator and GOP presidential candidate also said that “we have Native Americans but candidly there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”

Indigenous groups, including the National Congress of American Indians, have demanded CNN fire Mr Santorum for his remarks to the Young America’s Foundation’s Standing Up For Faith & Freedom conference in Pennsylvania on 23 April.

In a one-sentence statement toThe Independent on 26 April, Mr Santorum said: “I had no intention of minimising or in any way devaluing Native American culture.”

He told Mr Cuomo on Monday night that he “misspoke” as he defended his remarks about “the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the ideas behind those, and that I was saying we sort of created that anew, if you will.”

“People said I’m trying to dismiss what we did to the Native Americans, far from it,” he added. “The way we treated Native Americans was horrific.”

Mr Lemon told Mr Cuomo that he was “furious” watching the “horrible and insulting” interview, adding, “I apologise to viewers.”

“I cannot believe the first words out of his mouth weren’t, ‘I’m sorry, I said something ignorant, I need to learn about the history of this country’,” he said. “No contrition, didn’t talk about the suffering that Native Americans have had to deal with in this country.”

He accused Mr Santorum of trying to “whitewash the whitewash that he whitewashed”.

Mr Cuomo defended having the network political commentator on his programme as a means to engage and challenge an identity politics crisis in which Republicans believe they can convince white Americans that they “are targeted, that there is a pervasive culture shift, and that they are being replaced.”

“If you just dismiss it, Don, as ‘he’s wrong, that’s not the truth’ – why do people keep saying it then?” Mr Cuomo said, adding that Mr Lemon is encouraging censorship.

At one point, Mr Lemon grabbed his ear piece and told the studio to “please stop yelling at me, I’m trying to complete my thought.”

“You had an insurrection because people believe that America was founded in the image of white people,” Mr Lemon said. “It’s the same thing that Mr Santorum was saying about Native Americans. People already know that. I just think people are tired of being insulted every single day to their faces.”

Crystal Echo Hawk, director of IllumiNative, which seeks to combat the erasure of Native history, said in a statement that “CNN must do more to include Indigenous and diverse voices in its programming and fire Rick Santorum.”

“Allowing him to spread racism and white supremacy to the American public is reckless and irresponsible,” she said.

National Congress of American Indians president Fawn Sharp called Mr Santorum “an unhinged and embarrassing racist who disgraces CNN and any other media company that provides him a platform.”

The Native American Journalists Association also called on CNN to “immediately dismiss” Mr Santorum from the network and warned Native American and Alaska Native reporters “from working with, or applying to jobs, at CNN in the wake of continued racist comments and insensitive reporting directed at Indigenous people,” including Mr Santorum’s recent remarks.

CNN has not responded to The Independent’s requests for comment.

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