Eight months after disclosing on CNN that he was "a victim of a pedophile," CNN weekend anchor Don Lemon told NPR on Monday that he is gay.
"Do I want to be 'the gay anchor'?" Lemon asked NPR's David Folkenflik.
"He said his mentors and agents challenged him to consider whether he was willing to wear that label throughout his career," Folkenflik reported.
" 'And I'd have to say, at this point, why the hell not?'
"American society has changed greatly in recent decades and the face of television news has changed a lot with it. Two women now occupy the nation's three network evening news anchor chairs, and the country's racial and ethnic diversity is reflected on the air as well. Yet Lemon says that change has not extended to sexual orientation - at least, not publicly.
" 'We live and die by people watching us,' Lemon said. 'If I give people another reason not to watch me, that is a concern for me and that's a concern for whoever I am working for.
" 'My livelihood is on the line,' he said, 'I don't know if people are going to accept me; if I will have a job. I don't know how people will feel about this.'
"Colleagues at work know about his four-year relationship with his boyfriend, a CNN producer. But until now, Lemon has been extremely guarded with the public. He said he was told that anchors do not talk about such things."
Lemon, 45, told Journal-isms there was no relationship between the childhood abuse and his sexuality.
"No correlation between abuse and gay. None at all. Not sure why minds would go there. Most abusers are heterosexual and chose children of the opposite sex," he said by email.
Asked whether he had a message for other journalists or journalists of color in particular, he said:
"I'd like other journalists to know they can be free to be who they are; gay, straight, black, white, woman or man. We are all 'people' who just happen to have journalist as a title.
"Journalists of color are well aware of the sometimes rocky path towards equality. So, I suspect they relate to their gay colleagues in a BIG way. If not, they should."
"There was a time when I was terrified of revealing these things to the person I love most in this world - my own mother. But when I finally mustered the courage to tell her that I had been molested as a child and that I was born gay, my life began to change in positive ways that I never imagined possible," he said.
Bill Carter, writing in the New York Times, saw a different way the two disclosures were related. ". . . He knows enough about news to recognize what will get this book noticed.
" 'People are going to say: "Oh, he was molested as a kid and now he is coming out." I get it,' he said."
Lemon made the earlier disclosure in the course of interviewing young congregants at the Atlanta area megachurch pastored by Bishop Eddie Long. He said on a live, Saturday night newscast in September, "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.' " The Long case is scheduled for trial this summer.
Folkenflik said that Lemon spoke with NPR, with CNN's approval, in anticipation of the release of his memoir, "Transparent," later this spring.
". . . Just two openly gay people hold prominent on-air roles in network or cable news at the national level. Both work at MSNBC: opinion host Rachel Maddow, who arrived at the cable news channel via liberal talk radio, and daytime anchor Thomas Roberts, who came out in 2006." Neither is African American.
Carter reported, " 'It's quite different for an African-American male,' he said. 'It's about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You're taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine. In the black community they think you can pray the gay away.' He said he believed the negative reaction to male homosexuality had to do with the history of discrimination that still affects many black Americans, as well as the attitudes of some black women.
" 'You're afraid that black women will say the same things they do about how black men should be dating black women.' He added, 'I guess this makes me a double minority now.' "
Folkenflik added, "Most people would think if you're the prime news anchor, then you should sort of be this Edward R. Murrow, Clark Kent guy with the family and 2.5 kids - or the perky cute, yet smart Katie Couric," Lemon said. "Anyone would have to be naive to think that it wouldn't make a difference," Lemon said.
- Herndon Davis, Newsvine.com: Will Black America Embrace CNN's Don Lemon's Coming Out??
Johnathan Rodgers, first and only CEO of TV One, is retiring on July 31 after 45 years in the media business, TV One announced on Monday.
"Under his leadership the last seven years, TV One, an award-winning cable network available in 53 million homes, has become recognized as the quality programming alternative for African American adults," the announcement said.
"The network, profitable after only five years, also set successive viewership records over the past three television seasons. TV One has won multiple NAACP Image Awards and was recognized with the National Association of Black Journalists' Best Practices Award in 2009 for its coverage of the Democratic convention and election night in 2008."
Rodgers turned 65 on Jan. 18. When he accepted a 2009 Hall of Fame honor from Broadcasting & Cable magazine, he recalled that he and his childhood friends would discuss the lack of African American images on television. "I decided to devote my life to gently bringing change to our industry while maximizing change in our society," he said then.
"Running TV One has been an honor, a privilege and a labor of love for me," Rodgers said in a release.
"I was able to bring all my experiences from my previous jobs to help create this wonderful network. I want to thank Brian Roberts and Comcast for their support, and especially Alfred Liggins for his vision in creating and funding TV One and for allowing me to run it for the past seven years. There could have been no better way to cap off a long and satisfying career in the television business for me than to help build a sustainable channel that African American adults, indeed all Americans can be very proud of."
TV One is owned by Radio One and Comcast Corp. and was created to appeal to an older audience than Black Entertainment Television. It has never had a news department - Rodgers has said that would be too expensive - but the network did cover President Obama's inauguration and the Democratic National Conventnion that nominated him, and launched "Washington Watch With Roland Martin," a Sunday public affairs show taped on Fridays.
Liggins, chairman and Radio One president and CEO, said in the release, "When I realized that there was a business opportunity for launching a black cable channel nearly a decade ago, Quincy Jones told me there was only one person I should pursue to develop the channel, and that was Johnathan Rodgers. That was great advice, and Johnathan's involvement in TV One has been invaluable in its success on so many different levels. He is leaving the network on very solid footing for the future."
The release continued, "Educated as a journalist at the University of California at Berkeley, Rodgers began his career as a writer-reporter for Sports Illustrated in 1967 and in the succeeding years worked for NBC and CBS as a television writer, reporter and producer. After moving into media management, Rodgers eventually became an Executive Producer at CBS News and later the President of the CBS Television Stations group. In 1996, he joined the cable industry when he went to Discovery Communications as the President of the U.S. Networks group. While at Discovery, he oversaw the conversion of The Learning Channel into TLC and the successful launches of Animal Planet."
Lauren is a former Deputy Editor of The Root.