CNN anchor Don Lemon took some heat on air Monday after defending President Obama's use of the N-word in a separate radio interview on race relations in the U.S.
Responding to recent events in South Carolina — in which the shooting deaths of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston prompted a national backlash against Confederate symbols — Obama said the U.S. was not yet "cured" of racism.
"And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say n****r in public," he said in an interview for the podcast "WTF with Marc Maron." "That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior."
Later in the day on CNN, Lemon defended Obama against critics who argued the president's use of the word was below his office and only served to perpetuate an epithet that continues to fuel racist ideals.
In a heated exchange with regular contributor Sunny Hostin, Lemon said "you should be able to say" the word in the context of reporting on the reality of current affairs.
"I don't think we should bastardize the word, but if your'e using it in the context of a story, and it is relevant, you should be able to say it," Lemon said, adding: "It is our job to convey the truth and to tell people reality."
He later took his point a step further, holding up a large black placard displaying the N-word with the caption: "Does this offend you?" on the video scroll.
Twitter was watching. And Twitter responded. A selection of memes below:
Jason Wells is deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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