Don Lemon, who could always fall back on teaching yoga if that whole news thing doesn’t work out, because his ability to put his whole foot in his mouth is incredible, pulled another sick eka pada sirsasana Tuesday while covering a school cop’s forceful arrest of a black student in South Carolina.
CNN’s Lemon got into it with commentator and former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin, arguing that seeing video of the officer flipping the student over in her desk, throwing her across the room and pinning her down just isn’t enough to pass judgment on whether the arrest was proper.
“We don’t know what happened. You weren’t sitting in the room, Sunny. You don’t know if she wasn’t standing up. You do need to know more, and as a prosecutor, you should want to know more,” Lemon said.
As a former prosecutor, Hostin perhaps knows a little bit more about the law around the appropriate use of force to affect an arrest than journalism major Don Lemon.
“She is sitting there, she is not resisting, she is sitting there in a chair,” Hostin shot back. “That is unreasonable force, that is excessive force, and it’s assault.”
And Lemon wasn’t the only person appearing on CNN who wanted to focus on the student’s behavior, rather than the officer’s.
On New Day, former NYPD officer and current CNN police analyst Harry Houck admitted the arrest “looks really bad” on video, but maybe the student just wasn’t obeying the officer—in which case, everything that happened afterward was justified, in Houck’s view.
“You pull her out of the chair and take her down. That’s exactly what you do,” he said. And by the way, “she did not get hurt. It just looks bad in the video.”
Marc Lamont Hill, political commentator and voice of reason in this particular conversation, attempted to point out that perhaps the problem is teachers calling police to deal with a student who won’t get out of her chair, but he was condescendingly shut down by host Chris Cuomo.
Cuomo wasn’t interested in Hill’s very valid point because it wasn’t “specific” enough for him, and “you’ve made that point before.” So he cut back to Houck, who said, simply, “You must comply.”
Officer Ben Fields has been placed on leave, and the FBI and the Department of Justice are investigating the violent arrest as a possible civil rights violation, but CNN’s commentators really want to focus on whether the student obeyed the cop in this situation—whether she “wasn’t standing up”—as if that makes the video we all saw any easier to watch.
CNN: You must comply.