CNN host Don Lemon is getting blasted for covering his pal Jussie Smollett’s trial on his late-night show — without mentioning his own central role in tipping off the “Empire” star that he was being investigated by police.
As he took the stand Monday, Smollett, 39, had told the court that he first knew that police doubted his race-hate attack was real after getting a text message from Lemon, saying that was key in his decision not to hand his phone records over to cops.
The testimony quickly sparked comparisons between Lemon and his former CNN love-“brother” Chris Cuomo, who over the weekend was fired for his own meddling in his brother Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal.
But while Cuomo refused to report on his brother’s scandal, Lemon ended his Monday night show with a report on the latest news from the ex-“Empire” star’s trial — with no mention of his own involvement.
He spoke on-air to CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, who has been in court in Chicago covering the trial, promising “the very latest from the trial.”
The pair then reported on Smollett’s “really risky” decision to take the stand Monday, as well as the actor detailing his relationship with one of the men he is accused of hiring to stage his attack.
They never once mentioned Lemon’s involvement, even when discussing the “Empire” star’s decision not to hand his phone to police, which Smollett had told the court came after Lemon’s text.
Lemon’s attempts at straight news reporting was a far cry from his initial coverage of the attack, when he had admitted to his CNN viewers that Smollett’s case was “personal” to him because they were friends.
He also admitted in a 2019 interview with Entertainment Tonight that he had texted the actor “every day” to check in on his wellbeing.
He later suggested he was a victim himself if Smollett had indeed made up the attack. He “lied to a lot of people … including me,” he said on air at the time, Fox News noted at the time.
“He squandered the good will of very high-profile people who one day may be running this country like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker and people like President Trump.”
Lemon’s straight-faced coverage without mentioning his own involvement sparked outrage online, with some calling him a “crook” and saying it was time for CNN to “bid him goodbye.”
“Please resign and salvage what you have left of your disgraceful career,” one person said, saying viewers are “tired of your lies and divisiveness.”
Many also compared Lemon’s scandal to that of his former colleague, Chris Cuomo.
“Did CNN’s Don Lemon Pull a Chris Cuomo?” one person asked, while another also noted that as well as potential journalistic ethics issues, both men have been accused of sexual misconduct.
“If CNN is to be impartial they need to suspend Lemon until further review,” another commentator said.
Reps for CNN and Lemon did not immediately respond to requests for comment late Monday, Fox News said.