CNN anchor Don Lemon went off on GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy for “splaining” Black history to him in an epic smackdown over civil rights, guns, and the NRA.
On Wednesday morning’s edition of CNN This Morning, Lemon and co-anchor Poppy Harlow interviewed Ramaswamy, one of the few officially declared candidates in the 2024 GOP field.
The interview was contentious from the start, but it turned ugly when Harlow asked Ramaswamy about his speech to the NRA, in which he invoked a narrative connecting the fighting of the Civil War with gun rights, and accusing the Democratic Party of wanting to put Black people “back in chains” (a reference to a remark by then-Vice President Joe Biden).
Harlow asked Lemon if he had anything to add before they moved on, and Lemon expressed great exception. The segment escalated from there into an all-time epic cable news brawl:
POPPY HARLOW: Do you have anything on this before I move on to China?
DON LEMON: I don’t see what one has to do with the other, but go on. I took up a lot of time with Fox.
POPPY HARLOW: That’s fine. We have time.
DON LEMON: I don’t really see what one has to do with the other, especially considering and using the Civil War to talk about Black Americans. That war was not fought for Black people to have guns.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: That war was fought for Black people to have freedoms in this country. Yeah, actually, that’s why the Civil War was fought. The sad thing is…
DON LEMON: The Civil War wasn’t fought for poor Black people to have guns.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: Actually, you know, funny fact is, Black people did not get to enjoy the other freedoms until their Second Amendment rights were secured. And I think that that’s one of the lessons that.
DON LEMON: But Black people still aren’t allowed to enjoy the freedoms…
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: I disagree with you on that, Don. I disagree with that. And I think you’re doing a disservice to our country by failing to recognize the fact that we have you.
DON LEMON: When you are in Black skin and then you live in this country. Then you can disagree with me, but we’re not. You mentioned there are three different shades of melanin here?
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: I disagree. Don I think we have to be able to talk about these issues in the open regardless of the color of our skin. Black Americans today, to say that, compare that to 1865 and 1964.
DON LEMON: For you to compare it to1865, and1964 is actually… I think it’s insulting to Black people. It’s insulting to me as an African-American, I don’t want to sit here and argue with you because it’s infuriating for you to put that to put those things together. It’s not right. Your telling of history is wrong. Your…
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: What part of the history was wrong.
DON LEMON: The Civil War was fought. You’re making people think that the Civil War was fought for Black people, only for Black people to get guns. And for Black people to.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: A civil war was fought for Black people in this country to get freedoms, a noble mission. And I think that even after we succeeded, we had to actually secure those freedoms.
DON LEMON: To reduce it, in a speech at the NRA, to say, you’re making people think, you’re trying to say that Black people to get guns, that was that was the reason that you’re there at the NRA. That was a reason for the Civil war. I think that’s reductive…
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: It’s a fact! It’s not reductive, Don…
DON LEMON: I think it’s insulting. There are a whole plethora of reasons for the Civil War…
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: With all due respect, I find I find your explanation reductive and actually insulting, including to Black Americans, to say that Black people today, compared to 1964 1865, haven’t made progress, in part because of the freedoms we secured, and the Second Amendment was part of…
DON LEMON: Please. I cannot keep a thought if you guys are talking in my ear. So hang on one second. So to say that that Black people… Say what you said again?
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: Black people secured their freedoms after the Civil War, it is a historical fact, Don. Just study it only after their Second Amendment rights were secured.
DON LEMON: There were some that secured their freedoms after the Civil War. That is not, you are discounting Reconstruction. You just can’t do a whole host of things that happened after the Civil War when it comes to African-Americans, including the whole reason that the civil rights movement happened is because Black people did not secure their freedoms after the Civil War and that things turned around. People tried to change the freedoms that we were supposed to have after the Civil War…
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: You know how they got it? They got their Second Amendment rights and they actually got the NRA played a big role in that. But today, Don.
DON LEMON: The NRA did not play a big role in it, that is a lie…
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: Absolutely. They trained Black Americans how to use firearms…
DON LEMON: That’s a lie. That’s not it’s great to not play a big role in that.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: This is just historical fact. But the part that I find.
DON LEMON: Just because you say it’s historical fact doesn’t make it historical fact.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: The part that I find insulting is when you say today Black Americans don’t have those rights after we have gone through that civil rights revolution.
DON LEMON: You are sitting here telling an African American about the rights and what you find insulting about the way I live, the skin I live in every day!
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: Here’s what you and all.
DON LEMON: I know the freedoms Black and white, that Black people don’t have in this country and that Black people do have.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: Well, here’s where you and I have a different point of view. I think we should be able to express our views regardless of the color of our skin. We should have this debate without me, regarding you as a Black man.
DON LEMON: It’s insulting that you’re…
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: But me regarding you here as a fellow citizen.
DON LEMON: That you’re sitting here whatever ethnicity you are splaining to me what it’s like to be Black in America.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: Whatever ethnicity I am?
DON LEMON: I’m sorry.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: I’ll tell you what I am? I’m an Indian American. I’m proud of it. But I think we should have this debate. Black, white doesn’t matter.
DON LEMON: I think we should have this debate but I think we should…
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: On the content of the ideas to do.
DON LEMON: You should do it in an honest way and in a fair way. And what you’re doing is not an honest and fair way. We appreciate you coming on.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY: With due respect, Don, I look forward to continuing that conversation.