Hip-hop artist Talib Kweli battles Don Lemon over CNN’s Ferguson coverage

Live TV: What's not to love?


Allen Weiner


Published Aug 21, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 5:44 pm CDT

The ongoing tensions in Ferguson, Mo., are now seeping into everything, from personal Facebook pages to CNN interviews.

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A recent five-minute exchange between CNN’s Don Lemon and hip-hop artist and activist Talib Kweli is a powerful piece of Ferguson zeitgeist that shows the escalating frustration between those wanting to be heard and the media, charged with the near-impossible task of accuracy in a dynamic setting.

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“We live in a world that is being run by white supremacy and that’s the narrative and language … that has taken over,” Kweli says. He argues that such a backdrop makes it impossible for CNN to provide balanced coverage.

A long-time activist against police brutality and the nation’s crowded prison system, Kweli proceeds to tear into the gaps between CNN’s reporting and the events in Ferguson that he has witnessed—or, at least, he tries to.

“The story [on CNN’s website] said ‘police chased down men,’” Kweli says. Before he could finish, however, tempers boil over as Lemon insists on defending his network’s reporting, interrupting his guest’s angry narrative in the process.

While things on the ad-hoc set didn’t exactly get ugly, the conversation between Kweli and Lemon devolves into an incomprehensible mess, with Kweli chastising Lemon for not greeting him before the interview, and asking his producer how to pronounce Kweli’s name. After Kweli threatens to leave, tensions ease, and Lemon lets him speak.

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Kweli then returned to his personal observations. “The report said ‘the police chased men down,’” he repeated. “They chased men, women and children down.”

Lemon proceeded to show his mettle by calmly addressing his guest point by point, challenging Kweli’s notion that one perspective in a crowd—or one article from a media behemoth like CNN—tell the whole story.

While you have to give Lemon major points for keeping the conversation from spiraling even further into disaster—and Kweli for making some valid points about the nature of the Ferguson-inspired movement for equality—Twitter‘s response to the Lemon-Kweli on-camera spar was mixed.

Kweli’s interview with Don Lemon is the best album he’s made since 2001.

— Otto Von Biz Markie (@Passionweiss) August 21, 2014

Gotta chuckle that essentially Talib (#Libra) was upset about UNFAIR reportage and Don Lemon’s manners. #LibraProblems

— Ebony SkyTalker (@sfreynolds) August 21, 2014

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Talib feels dissed by Don Lemon, who turns their uncomfortable interview into a peace offering. Not bad. http://t.co/Vf4OrH7hm0

— Mike Wise (@MikeWiseguy) August 21, 2014

H/T Buzzfeed | Photo via didy b/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Aug 21, 2014, 7:15 pm CDT