August 22, 2013
By Kam Williams
LAWT Contributing Writer
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on March 1, 1966, Don Lemon anchors CNN Newsroom during weekend prime-time and serves as a correspondent across CNN/U.S. programming. Based out of the network's New York bureau, Don joined CNN in September 2006.
In 2008, he reported from Chicago in the days leading up to the presidential election, including an interview with Rahm Emanuel on the day he agreed to serve as President Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff. He also interviewed Anne Cooper, the 106-year old voter Obama highlighted in his election night acceptance speech.
Don has covered many breaking news stories, including the George Zimmerman trial, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Philadelphia building collapse, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the Colorado Theater shooting, the death of Whitney Houston, the Inaugural of the 44th President in Washington, D.C., the death of Michael Jackson, and the Minneapolis bridge collapse, to name a few. And he anchored the network's breaking news coverage of the Japan tsunami, the Arab Spring, the death of Osama Bin Laden and the Joplin tornado.
Don began his career at WNYW in New York City as a news assistant while still attending Brooklyn College. He has won an Edward R. Murrow award for his coverage of the capture of the Washington, D.C. snipers, and an Emmy for a special report on real estate in Chicagoland.
In 2009, Ebony Magazine named him one of the 150 most influential Blacks in America. A couple of years later, he came out of the closet, and discussed his homosexuality in an autobiography entitled “Transparent.”
Don recently caught a lot of flak from a number of African-American pundits for agreeing with Bill O’Reilly’s criticisms of the black community, especially since he even suggested that the conservative talk show host hadn’t gone far enough.
Here, he talks about We Were There, an oral history of The March on Washington featuring the only surviving speaker Congressman John Lewis as well as Harry Belafonte, U.S. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, and other attendees. The special is set to debut on CNN on Friday, August 23 at 10:00p.m., 1:00a.m., and 4:00a.m.
LAWT: What interested you in doing a special about The March on Washington?
DL: We had been talking about it for awhile as the 50th anniversary approached, and I kept indicating that I would love to be a part of it. Somewhere, somehow, somebody heard that, Kam, and they said, “Don really wants to do this. Let’s have him do it.”
LAWT: Being an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow Award-winner, I don’t think you’d have to beg too much.
DL: Just because I’m here at CNN, I never rest on my laurels and presume I can coast now. I still throw my hat in the ring and push to have a voice. I am the face of this documentary for CNN, and I think that says a lot about how far we’ve come. Here I am a young African-American who has a voice at this major network. That is part of the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream.
LAWT: Does the documentary have a theme?
DL: There are, for me, a few different themes. People like John Lewis and A. Philip Randolph put their lives on the line to participate. So, the first theme that stands out to me is courage. The second theme was the hope they exhibited in “the teeth of the most terrifying odds,” as James Baldwin said. Thirdly, Bayard Rustin, who many call The Architect of the Civil Rights Movement, finally gets his due. I think that’s a fair characterization to some degree. He’s the silent, strong man who made The March happen. But because he was gay and people tried to use that against him is probably why we don’t hear so much about him.
LAWT: I remember feeling admiration as a child for the folks from my neighborhood who were going down to The March on Washington, because of everyone’s palpable sense of concern for their safety.
DL: I think admiration is a good way of putting it. Whenever I see John Lewis, I invariably say, “Thank you.” And I will never stop. I don’t know how he’s still standing, because what he endured took courage and strength that I don’t know that I have.
LAWT: I interviewed Ellen DeGeneres the day after Barack Obama won the 2008 Presidential Election. She felt his victory had been bittersweet because Proposition 8 had passed in California, banning gay marriage. The measure had succeeded with the help of the black community. I asked her whether she thought African-Americans would feel differently about homosexuality, if a famous black icon came out of the closet. How do you feel about that, as probably the most prominent black celebrity to come out?
DL: I don’t consider myself a celebrity. I’m just a journalist. Frank Ocean is a celebrity. Yeah, I was in the forefront, and took a lot of heat for it. I think the President’s evolution in terms of gay marriage has helped change many people’s minds. I think it’s empowering for a person to live an authentic life. It can only help when prominent and successful people of color come out and live authentically, because younger people, who are being bullied and might be questioning whether they should continue to live, might have second thoughts about taking their own lives. So, yeah, I think any celebrity who comes out can only help a young person struggling with the stigma.
LAWT: Do you think your coming out started a snowball among black gays?
DL: I don’t know. But I do think it helps the next person, because I get positive feedback every day from someone who has read my book.
LAWT: See, you’re not just a journalist. Plus look at all the blowback from your recent remarks agreeing with Bill O’Reilly about the black community.
DL: I don’t feel any blowback, but I will say this, whether you agree with whatever I said or not, at least I got a conversation started. That was my goal, and I think I accomplished it. I think if you’ve watched or read my work over the years, you know that I’m pretty much at the top in terms of taking on issues that have to do with African-Americans and profiling, and with race and racism. What I love about CNN is that, yes, we believe in diversity of bodies, but we also believe in a diversity of opinion. So, whether my bosses agree with what I said or not, it doesn’t matter. We’re in the business of journalism here. Journalism is about having a diversity of opinion. And just because I’m African-American does not mean I have to feel a certain way because I’m black. You don’t have true freedom until you allow a diversity of opinion and a diversity of voices.
LAWT: I always feel that I’m black, so whatever my opinion on an issue happens to be is a black opinion.
DL: That’s a good way of putting it. [Laughs]
LAWT: But do you fear being pigeonholed as a buddy of O’Reilly?
DL: There are many things that Bill O’Reilly and I disagree about. I just happen to agree with some of what he had to say on this issue, but not all of it. Does that mean I co-signed his whole being and existence? No?
LAWT: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
DL: Yes, what do you get from icons like Dr. King, Malcolm X and John Lewis? What I get from them is personal empowerment, personal responsibility, and that the only thing you truly own is your mind. And once you truly own your mind, you’re free. You can decide for yourself what is the best way to respond in the face of discrimination. How to carry yourself with dignity. What matters is how you think of yourself, and having presence of mind. Once you get that right, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of you, because you know how to carry yourself in the world.
LAWT: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
DL: The last two books I read were: “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander,
LAWT: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
DL: Besides all the flaws, I see the kid that I once was. [Chuckles] Seriously, what stares back at me is someone who lives in a constant state of gratitude, regardless of what’s going on in my life. Just this morning, when I woke up, I walked into the bathroom, looked in the mirror and said, “Look how far you’ve come. I’m grateful for this day. And for those fat cheeks. And for the boldness that you have. And for the stances that you take. And I know that you’re going to be okay. And I want the next person who looks like you whether they’re 1 day-old or 15 years-old to be better than you and to have a better life.” I swear to God I just said that this morning in the mirror. So, it’s funny that you asked that question.
LAWT: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory in Baton Rouge?
DL: Sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen at about 3 or 4, watching her talking on a yellow telephone with a long cord. I spilled my drink, and my sister scolded me, “Every time you spill something!” And I asked my very understanding grandma’s permission to go to the bathroom.
LAWT: Can you give me a Don Lemon question?
DL: Yeah, this question has gotten to just about everyone I ask. It even made Wendy Williams cry. It’s, “Who do you think you are?”
LAWT: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
DL: Sleep. I loooooove to sleep. I also like salty, plain potato chips and Lindt dark chocolate with a touch of sea salt.
LAWT: What is your favorite dish to cook?
DL: Seafood gumbo, because I get to make it with my family over the holidays.
LAWT: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
DL: That we would not be so enamored with the slavery of equality, and be more enamored with the freedom of independence.
LAWT: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
DL: Being self-possessed. Having a strong sense of self.
LAWT: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?
DL: Leaving Louisiana.
LAWT: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
DL: Babies and puppies, because they’re so innocent, and they have their lives ahead of them.
LAWT: Makes me think of the saying: Youth is wasted on the young.
DL: To get back to O’Reilly and the whole saggy pants thing, it’s almost like, “Just take my advice, I’m an old guy. That’s probably not a good look. You might want to rethink that.” And then, invariably, something will happen to them in their career, and I hate to say, “I told you so, but…” I suppose people just have to go through things.
LAWT: Which reminds me of another saying: When the student is ready, the teacher appears.
DL: I like that. I’m going to use that on the air.
LAWT: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
DL: I think it’s great, if you want to follow in my footsteps, but I want you o be better than me, and you have to do it because you are passionately motivated by journalism and by a quest for the truth, not by a desire to be a celebrity. That’s not what this is all about. And you have to be thick-skinned, since you’re going to receive a lot of criticism, and that’s part of what being a journalist is. I feel really strongly about the oath that I’ve taken to inform and to tell the truth. I’m not a race protector, I’m a truth protector. The truth is the truth is the truth. And as long as you tell the truth, you’ll be okay in the end. A lot of people didn’t like Dr. King, either, especially the black establishment. So, you may not be liked, but you’ll be respected.
August 15, 2013
By Laura Olson
Actresses Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner urged California lawmakers Tuesday to support legislation that they say would help them better protect their children from the paparazzi that follow them daily.
The stars testified before the Assembly Judiciary Committee regarding SB606, which would impose tougher penalties on photographers who harass celebrities and their children.
It was Berry’s second state Capitol appearance on the measure. The Academy Award-winning actress, who is pregnant, told lawmakers the constant presence of photographers yelling and snapping pictures has made her daughter scared to go to school.
“As mothers, as parents, we don't have the wherewithal or the law in place right now to protect them from this,” Berry said. “What this bill would do is give us our rights back so that we can protect our children.”
The bill from Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, would change the definition of harassment to include photographing or recording a child without the permission of a legal guardian by following the child or guardian’s activities or by lying in wait. It also increases the penalties for people convicted of such behavior.
The bill passed the panel without opposition and now heads to the Appropriations Committee.
Garner, who starred in the ABC series “Alias,” nearly cried describing how paparazzi aggressively follow her and her three young children as she takes them to school and to the pediatrician.
She told the committee that she understood she would make certain sacrifices when she chose a career in acting but that her children have not made the same decision to be in the public spotlight.
“I don’t want a gang of shouting, arguing, law-breaking photographers who camp out everywhere we are, all day, every day, to continue to traumatize my kids,” Garner said.
Media organizations are concerned the bill will restrict journalists who are conducting legitimate newsgathering activities.
Joe Berry of the California Broadcasters Association said harassment is already illegal. The legislation “is overly broad and overly reaches in order to rein in these bad actors,” he testified.
De Leon told the committee he believes pending amendments will satisfy some concerns about the bill.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Oprah Winfrey says she’s “sorry” about the media coverage that emerged after she said she experienced racism during a trip to Switzerland.
“I think that incident in Switzerland was just an incident in Switzerland. I’m really sorry that it got blown up. I purposefully did not mention the name of the store. I’m sorry that I said it was Switzerland,” Winfrey said Monday night at the Los Angeles premiere of “Lee Daniels: The Butler.”
“I was just referencing it as an example of being in a place where people don’t expect that you would be able to be there,” she continued.
In a recent interview with “Entertainment Tonight,” Winfrey recalled a clerk at an upscale Zurich boutique refusing to show her a handbag. Winfrey said she was told she could not afford the $38,000 purse.
“I’m in a store, and the person doesn’t obviously know that I carry the black card, and so they make an assessment based upon the way I look and who I am,” said Winfrey, who earned $77 million in the year ending in June, according to Forbes magazine.
“I didn’t have anything that said, ‘I have money.’ I wasn’t wearing a diamond stud. I didn’t have a pocketbook. I didn’t wear Louboutin shoes. I didn’t have anything,” said Winfrey on the red carpet. “You should be able to go in a store looking like whatever you look like and say, ‘I’d like to see this.’ That didn’t happen.”
Swiss tourism officials and the boutique owner apologized for the incident last week, but Winfrey insists there’s no need.
“It’s not an indictment against the country or even that store,” she continued. “It was just one person who didn’t want to offer me the opportunity to see the bag. So no apologies necessary from the country of Switzerland. If somebody makes a mistake in the United States do we apologize in front of the whole country? No!”
“The Butler,” which opens Friday, documents the civil rights movement through the story of a butler who served in the White House for seven presidents.
A surge in your personal power enables you to slay any dragons that you happen to meet this week. If you keep your attention on your own personal dragons, you’ll be advancing your own best self by knocking out some less than healthy habits. Use the force for good! Soul Affirmation: Shining brightly is something that I can do even in shadows.
Lucky Numbers: 20, 33, 51
Here’s a chance to get to the bottom of an issue that’s been bothering you for quite some time. This week you’ll feel objective enough to focus on the situation, and not the person who may unwittingly have caused the situation. Go for it! Soul Affirmation: The enjoyment of good food is high on my agenda this week.
Lucky Numbers: 15, 43, 55
Information flows smoothly to and from you this week. You are in your element as communications come and go. You’ll learn much as you listen and observe others. Be easy on yourself this week. Soul Affirmation: I enjoy flirting with new ideas.
Lucky Numbers: 7, 14, 32
Someone may try to push your buttons this week. Don’t let it get on your nerves. You have the power to focus your attention on positive thoughts and ideas. They will prove much more worthwhile in the long run than a short-term blow-out with an unequal adversary. Soul Affirmation: When I am clear about who I am, the world becomes clearer.
Lucky Numbers: 2, 45, 50
Conclusions can be reached; but don’t jump to them. Things are working out in your best interests. Ignore any negative attitudes and stay focused on your goals and plans. You are winning! Soul Affirmation: My hunches pay all week this week.
Lucky Numbers: 6, 11, 13
This is a perfect week for some fun. You know how to have fun and it’s calling you out to play. Say what you need and the rest will follow in perfect order! Have a good time! Soul Affirmation: The search for fun occupies my time. Enjoy!
Lucky Numbers: 1, 19, 33
You may receive some news that trouble you, but recognize what you can and can’t do about the situation. As powerful as you are, you are still not required to do everything for everyone. Do what feels most loving. Soul Affirmation: I smile and trust in the powers beyond myself.
Lucky Numbers: 11, 29, 43
Your leadership skills are shining this week, so get out there and glimmer with good vibrations. Others are looking to you for guidance and as a path to follow. Let your journey through the week provide a good model. Soul Affirmation: I let worry fly away.
Lucky Numbers: 15, 16, 39
You are brilliant this week as you gather materials and resources together for an important project. There’s a good probability for wonderful news late in the afternoon. Ride the vibes and be gentle with your own feelings. Soul Affirmation: There are plenty of fish in the sea waiting for me.
Lucky Numbers: 1, 42, 50
A date or meeting that is unexpectedly cancelled may make someone very unhappy. Recognize that all things work for good, and that a better solution is being provided in the space between what you think you want and what you are getting. Soul Affirmation: This week silence speaks loudest and truest.
Lucky Numbers: 20, 40, 41
Serenity is yours as you realize you can get what you need. It’s coming and you deserve it! Take a few quiet moments this week to listen to your inner voice. It will give you a powerful hint about what activities you should be pursuing right now. Soul Affirmation: I let positive emotions carry me through the week.
Lucky Numbers: 8, 17, 21
In all of the hustle and bustle of the week this week, take some time to observe the Now. There’s a great deal to be thankful for! A great idea could come to you when you are out with friends. Soul Affirmation: I celebrate with those around me.
Lucky Numbers: 39, 51, 52
By ANTHONY McCARTNEY
Michael Jackson's ex-wife broke into tears on Wednesday when she took the witness stand in a civil case and described the singer's fear of pain and reliance on physicians.
Debbie Rowe said the pop star trusted doctors to prescribe pain medication to him, but they sometimes tried to outdo each other while losing sight of Jackson's care.
"Michael had a very low pain tolerance and his fear of pain was incredible," Rowe said. "I think the doctors took advantage of him that way."
She said she was with Jackson when he received treatments from his longtime dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein and from plastic surgeon Dr. Steven Hoefflin.
They would try to out-do each other, with each one prescribing different drugs while trying to persuade Jackson their recommendations were better to manage his pain, she said.
The doctors "were going back and forth the whole time, not caring about him," Rowe told jurors.
Rowe is the mother of the singer's two oldest children, Prince and Paris Jackson. She and the pop star were married from 1996 to 1999. Rowe also worked with Klein beginning in the late 1970s.
Rowe said she told another one of Jackson's doctors, Allan Metzger, that she was concerned that Klein and Hoefflin were giving the singer too many medications.
"The only physician who ever did anything, the only physician who cared for Michael was Allan Metzger," Rowe said, fighting back tears.
Rowe said Metzger arranged for two doctors to give Jackson the anesthetic propofol in Germany in 1997 when he complained that he couldn't sleep during his "HIStory" tour.
On two occasions, the doctors brought medical equipment to Jackson's hotel suite and monitored the singer while he was under the effect of the anesthetic for eight hours. The doctors warned Jackson about the dangers of using propofol, but Rowe said he disregarded the information.
"He was just more worried about not sleeping," she said. Rowe said she would not allow the singer to get similar propofol treatments for sleep issues after the use in Germany.
Jackson died from an overdose of propofol that was administered by another physician in 2009.
Rowe also described efforts to wean Jackson off the painkiller Demerol after he had surgery in 1993 to repair damage to his scalp sustained when he was burned while filming a Pepsi commercial years earlier.
She said Metzger devised a plan to treat Jackson's pain with different medications before he went on a leg of his "Dangerous" tour. Rowe lived with Jackson for three weeks to ensure he stayed on the regimen.
"At that point we were friends," Rowe said. "He wasn't a patient."
She said Jackson knew he couldn't take pain medications forever and needed a strong voice to get him off the drugs. "I'm probably one of the only people who said no to him," Rowe said.
Rowe said the plan to break Jackson's use of Demerol failed when a doctor who accompanied the singer on tour gave him the drug while overseas.
A phone message left at Klein's office was not immediately returned. An email sent to Hoefflin's former practice was returned, stating the plastic surgeon retired five years ago and no longer practiced medicine.
Rowe said Jackson respected doctors immensely because they went to school and vowed to do no harm to patients.
Katherine Jackson claims in her lawsuit that AEG Live failed to properly investigate the doctor later convicted of giving her son an overdose of propofol while he prepared for a series of comeback shows in 2009.
She sat in the front row of the courtroom and leaned forward in her seat during portions of Rowe's testimony.
AEG denies it hired Conrad Murray or bears any responsibility for the singer's death.
Marvin S. Putnam, the company's lead defense attorney, said in opening statements that the case was about Jackson's personal choices and his desire to use propofol as a sleep aid.
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