CNN’s Don Lemon joined me on today’s show to discuss the video of the South Carolina incident:
HH: Of course, the viral video that is sweeping the nation has to do with the South Carolina high school officer in the conflict with the young woman in the high school. I’m joined now by my new BFF, Don Lemon, from CNN Tonight. I’ve been doing Don’s show more than I’ve been in my apartment in the last few weeks. Don, welcome, it’s great to have, turnabout is fair play here.
DL: I was going to say, you need to, I was going to say you need to get out more, but you need to get home more.
HH: Hey, you have a big scoop tonight. Let’s go right to this. Who do you have on CNN Tonight dealing with this video?
DL: So there were two people who were arrested in that high school. One is the girl you see on camera with the officer. Another is another girl who started videotaping it, and who was also arrested, and actually spoke out, and she spoke out and said what are you doing. And so she was also arrested. And so I have her. Her name is Niya Kenny. She was arrested. She could face up to a $1,000 dollar fine or 90 days in jail, and/or 90 days in jail, or she might be expelled. She’s not been allowed to go back to school. So I have her tonight, and she tells us what went down inside the classroom.
HH: Now that’s a big deal. Did Niya, did she have any physical altercation with the officer?
DL: No. She said when the officer, she, according to her, she said the officer said what’s wrong, why are you talking to me or whatever, do you want some of this, and this is according to her. And then she said, she said nope, and she just turned around and put her hands behind her back, and went away without any altercation.
HH: How interesting. I will be watching. You know, I got back, I was in Cleveland last night, Don, doing an event with Peter Kirsanow, who is on the Civil Rights Commission…
HH: Guy Benson and Katie Pavlich of the Salem Media network, and we spent 45 minutes, probably, of an hour and a half program talking about Black Lives Matter, Peter, of course, an African-American member of the Civil Rights Commission, the rest of us are all Anglo. And then I go back to the hotel room, and you’re talking to T.D. Jakes, who is one of the men I admire most in America about this. And now, you’ve got this exclusive. I did not expect black/white issues to dominate this election season. Did you?
DL: No, I didn’t. I’m actually surprised by it. I thought that it may come up, considering what happened in Baltimore, when you look at what happened in Ferguson, and on and on around the country. I thought that it may have some prominence in the election, but not, not this, not to be this prominent. And I didn’t think that considering the tactics that they took in the beginning, that certainly Black Lives Matter would not have so much sway when it comes to the Democratic Party, and we’ll see with the Republican Party. But I didn’t think so, but now that they have the attention, you know, I’ve been saying this all along, it’s time to sit at the table and be adults.
HH: All right now Pastor Jakes last night, what was his key takeaway? I have my own version of it, but what did you hear him say?
DL: Pastor Jakes says of course, all lives matter, but he understands that black lives matter, that there’s a distinction. If you say, if you look at the context and what happens, what has happened in the country when it comes to the relationship between minorities, especially young, black men and police, that he understands the distinction, but of course, all lives matter, and that’s what he said. But he said we are getting so caught up in the semantics that we’re forgetting to deal, that we’re not dealing with the issue. And the issue is that we need to deal with people who are having altercations with police officers, those police officers who are bad, and of course, we know not all police officers are. The majority of police officers are good police officers. But we also need to deal with people who are being gunned down on the streets and on the sidewalks every single day as well. Those black lives also matter.
HH: Now Don Lemon, I told our mutual friend, Mark Preston, who is one of your colleagues at CNN, that on the night before the CNN…
DL: By the way, Guy Benson is a mutual friend as well…
HH: Oh, I didn’t know that.
DL: And of course, and Mary Katharine Ham, who is in my prayers every single day, is also a friend.
HH: You know, she made her return last night to TV on Greta…
HH: And I watched the video, and it was terrific.
HH: But I’ve got to tell you, Preston was calling me, I was driving from Stanford down to the Simi Valley library debate at the Reagan Library, and I may have been going too fast, and an officer of the law pulled me over. And I must admit, I’m a little ashamed of it, I played the debate card. I said I had to get down to Simi for the debate. And he checked me out, and he knew that I was legit, and he said okay, but here’s the deal. I’m not going to give you a ticket. Will you ask them if they will support police? And last night, it came up, and Peter Kirsanow and I talked about this. Police feel embattled, and I’m sure high school officers now know that they, if they go into a situation like this one in South Carolina, they’re being filmed, right? That’s a given now.
DL: Yeah, it is a given. And so I think that one must, whatever job you’re in, we’re all being filmed. I have watched myself, even if I’m, you know, having a bad meal, and the waiter is being nasty, you can’t do, you can’t, you just can’t anymore. But yeah, you know, I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention to what James Comey has been saying, that the FBI director who has been saying that he fears that talking to officers around the country that they’re afraid to do their jobs, because they’re going to end up on some video somewhere, and possibly end up in jail or being prosecuted. Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic mayor from Chicago, in a city that has lots of crime, is also saying the same thing. And police officers we’re speaking to around the country are also saying the same thing. Listen, I understand, and I think we need to listen to their issues. It’s, their issues are legitimate. But one cannot not do your job because you’re afraid someone is filming you, especially when you have a job that carries as much weight and as much responsibility as a police officer. Listen, I think it’s awful…
HH: Now let me ask you, as an African-American man…
HH: Last night, Peter Kirsanow, who is the same way, says look, black lives are being taken by black people in far greater numbers, with far greater numbers of bullets, and it’s just not getting covered, because it doesn’t get the press. What do you respond to that?
DL: I think that, I think that he has a point. It doesn’t get the press, and it doesn’t get people riled up enough, and I think in a way, it may be, to certain members of the community, it may be a bit embarrassing. But I do, you know, that we don’t want to let out our dirty laundry. But I also think that we can walk and chew gum at the same time, that you can talk about Black Lives Matter as it relates to police officers, but you can also, you can also start an effort to deal with Black Lives Matter as it relates to other black people who are killing, who are responsible for taking those black lives. So I think that there is a discussion in there, and there is a, that somehow, we need to get on track, or the pendulum needs to swing closer to the middle than to the extremes when it comes to dealing with that issue, because yes, if you look at the sheer number of people who are killed, it is by far by people who are, you know, black and white. White people are killed mostly by white people, black people are killed mostly by black people. But the scourge of violence that, you know, just befalls our cities every single day and every single night is just horrible, and we need to deal with that, especially when it comes to those black lives.
HH: Now let me go back to this particular story. I will refer Peter Kirsanow to you sometime. He would be a fascinating conversation for you. But what does Niya say happened in that classroom before this video unfurls, because you know, the video, no one wants to see a kid manhandled that way.
HH: But on the other hand, she punched the officer, which is like asking to get manhandled, and not a good idea to do. But what does she say happened?
DL: She says that she, they were in the class, and I guess the young lady used her phone, and the teacher has a policy of not using phones in class, and her phone is not the first one that he has asked, that he has confiscated, or wanted to confiscate. She says usually, the person will give up their phone. They get the phone back at the end of class, or sometimes, he makes you go through a bit of a rigmarole, and then you eventually get the phone back, but never a resource officer, and never a school administrator. So he asked her for the phone, she said no several times. She said no. So then he called for a school administrator to come in. The school administrator came in, asked for the phone several times, and she said no. And then once that happened, they called in the school resource officer, as they call it, an SRO. The SRO said can you give me your phone, and she looked at him and said nope, I’m not giving you my phone. And so he said well, I’m going to treat you fairly, but then closed her computer, took it off of her desk, and she still would not give the phone. And he went to, behind her and to get her out of the seat, and then he grabbed her, and then she, you could see in the video, she punches him. And Niya did say she fought back, and then he picks her up out of the desk, moves her across the floor, pushes her across the floor, and then handcuffs her, and the students are frightened in the class, and that’s the end of it.
HH: Oh, it must have been incredibly tense in that class. Is she in jail tonight? Is the girl in the chair in jail tonight?
DL: No, she is not. She’s with her family, and according to the school and the sheriff, she was not injured. But I spoke to her mother last night. Her mother is saying that she is injured, that her arm is in a cast, or in a sling, that she has bruises, and that she is now depressed from this incident. But according to the officials at the school and the police officials, they didn’t see any injuries at the time, maybe like a brush or a rug burn or something of the sort.
HH: And 30 seconds, Don, is the police, or the school resource officer union rallying to the officer’s cause?
DL: Well, I had not seen anyone rallying to the officer’s cause. I have seen the sheriff say that they’re in a tough position, but that he is concerned about the video, and also wondering is it a school resource officer’s job to discipline a student and take them out of school? They need to reevaluate that.
HH: Interesting, Don Lemon. We’ll be watching tonight, CNN Tonight with Niya Kenny special exclusive interview. Don, good to talk to you.
End of interview.