In the course of interviewing young congregants at the Atlanta area mega-church pastored by Bishop Eddie Long, CNN anchor Don Lemon disclosed on a live newscast Saturday night, "I am a victim of a pedophile.
"Let me tell you what got my attention about this, and I have never admitted this on television. I'm a victim of a pedophile when I was a kid. Someone who was much older than me, and those are the things that they do," Lemon told the three congregants, who had been unwavering in their support of the bishop during the interview.
"Four people have come up with the exact same stories," Lemon told them. "That's what pedophiles do. The language, 'This isn't going to make you gay if you do this.' "
"When I look at different pedophiles, as you said, I don't see bishop as one," Gabrielle A. Richardson replied. "If you look at the various things he's done for the community and young people in general, no."
Gary A. Foster said, "I support the minister because the minister has supported me. He's my leader and it is our duty to stand behind our prophet, and that's what I will continue to do until he gives me reason not to."
"I'm not saying the bishop is a pedophile, but no one is perfect," Lemon replied, adding that many in the congregation have not even "put into their mind" that "something there might be inappropriate." He concluded with a request that "you should stand behind your bishop but you should all keep an open mind" and concluded, "as I've been saying all week, there are no winners in this situation."
The newscast took place a day before Long, standing before thousands of supportive congregants vowed to "vigorously" defend himself against the accusations of four young men who claim he coerced them into sex, as Gracie Bonds Staples, Shelia M. Poole and Craig Schneider reported for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"Long went on to say he has never portrayed himself as a perfect man. 'But I am not the man being portrayed on the television. … That's not me. That's not me.' "
Later Sunday, Lemon, 44, told Journal-isms in a message, "I've carried this secret since I was 6 yrs old. Didn't tell my mom til I was 30. Too embarrassed. Too ashamed. Too guilty. Personally, I know I've internalized it. Years of therapy, etc. Professionally, I think it's helped me.
"It's made me more curious about who people really are. I learned very early on that people aren't always what they present in public. So while being acutely attuned to that has helped me professionally, it's too bad I had to learn it at such a young age. Just like any other profession, journalists come with a myriad of personal experiences. We shouldn't be afraid to act like human beings."
Lemon's revelations were met with supportive and congratulatory messages to Lemon's Facebook page.
"It was a brave move, absolutely. You are an inspiration to many … " one said.
"Use your place as our 'go-to' reporter to BREAK THE SILENCE, STOP THE VIOLENCE!" said another.
"Don, you are very brave," said a third. "Thank you for revealing your truth, particularly in the presence of those young adults who needed to know that questioning is more than okay. As 1 Thess 5:21 says, 'Test all things. Hold fast what is good.' May they realize that their first loyalty is to the Word, and not a man."
Lemon replied, "Thank you all for your kind words. I had no idea I'd say that on national tv. It just came out. Sadly, it's the truth for so many young men."
Asked what he thought of one woman's questioning whether such a revelation was journalistically appropriate, Lemon told Journal-isms, "I have no other response to that except what I wrote to you. It was unplanned and I am human. There was no agenda behind it."
*Christian Boone, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Aggressive tone in dealing with scandalous allegations
*Shayne Lee, cnn.com: Black church culture makes it hard to embrace homosexuality
*Roland Martin, Creators Syndicate: Bishop Eddie L. Long Must Step Down
*Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Sex scandals expose bias, character flaws
*Goldie Taylor, Facebook: A (not so) Super Hero: The Rise and Fall of Eddie Long
*Wil LaVeist, urbanfaith.com: A Bishop's Scandal
*Craig Washington, theRoot.com: A Sermon for Bishop Eddie Long
*WSB-TV: Slide show: A look inside the Sunday morning service at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church