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CNN’s Don Lemon Is 100% Over These Meaningless “Fake News” Accusations

Over the last few months, the term “fake news” has exploded into our vernacular, to the point where it’s become essentially meaningless. The term gained major attention at Donald Trump’s first press conference, when he yelled at CNN’s Jim Acosta, “You are fake news,” although that wasn’t the first time he’d used the phrase. He first tweeted the term in December of last year, and in the two-plus months since, he’s tweeted it nearly 30 times, usually in all-caps. And that doesn’t include his love of using the phrase in person, at rallies and in other speeches, not to mention actual press conferences.

So while the issue of fake news has been of concern for a while now (with the serious rise of fake stories growing during the last election cycle), the term itself grew so large, so fast, it couldn’t survive. This term no one had any real connection to prior to a few months ago, now dominates pretty much every political conversation. Check out the enormous jump in Google searches for the phrase over the last few months.

Thanks in large part, if not entirely, to Trump’s over-usage, it’s now become a cheap, meaningless way to shut down any story or argument people don’t agree with. Trump himself has taken the term a step further, to include–IN HIS OWN WORDS–basically anything negative said about him. Any negative polls are now deemed fake.

And CNN’s Don Lemon, like so many others, is not having any of this. In the segment above, he’s talking to a panel about the taxpayer cost of Trump’s extravagant lifestyle. Three of the guests engaged in an actual conversation, despite not all agreeing on the issue–you know, like political pundits and adult humans in general were once able to do. But when Lemon asked conservative commentator Paris Dennard for his thoughts, Dennard replied, “I think this is fake news. This is not a news story.”

Dennard, like so many others, seems to be deliberately conflating the actual definition of “fake” with “not worth talking about.” But since we, as a people never officially agreed to this new meaning, the result is confusion, frustration, and a potentially insurmountable difficulty in finding enough common ground to have even the simplest of debates. It’s like when the definition of the word “literally” changed to mean literally the opposite of the original definition.

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Anyway, watch the quick clip above, but in case you’re not able to watch, here’s Lemon’s beautiful explanation of the difference between actual fake news and news you simply don’t like. Because they are very different things.

Let me explain to people out there watching, and you, what fake news is. Fake news is when you put out a story to intentionally deceive someone and you know that it is it wrong. I don’t know of anybody that has put out a story in the mainstream media that I can think of right now to intentionally deceive anyone. Now, people get things wrong, sources are sometimes empty, but no one that I know has put out anything to intentionally deceive someone.

This story that we’re doing right now is not to intentionally deceive anyone. We are simply talking about the cost to keep a president safe–the Secret Service cost, and what are the pros and the cons, and as Andre said, if there are ways we can maybe work on that to make it fiscally better for the American people. There’s nothing fake about that. Please stop it with that stupid talking point that it is a fake news story. If you don’t want to participate in the news stories on this network, then don’t come on and participate, but don’t call them fake because you don’t agree with them.

Lemon then asked Dennard to go on with his point, to which Dennard started immediately with “Don, this is a fake news story in my opinion,” and Lemon immediately shuts down the entire interview. CNN told Mediaite in a comment that Lemon ended the segment so abruptly because they were out of time. That may be the case, and Lemon had made it clear that he was pushing to get everyone a chance to speak.

But if it’s not, can you blame him for cutting this short? How do you have a conversation with someone who refuses to start from the most basic shared reality of what the words “fake” and “real” even mean?

(image via screengrab)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.