Don Lemon vs. Jeffrey Lord: Comparing Trump To Martin Luther King Jr. Of Health Care Was Insulting

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Don Lemon and CNN contributor Jeffrey Lord go at it when the conservative commenter is unapologetic about calling President Trump the "Martin Luther King Jr. of health care."

Symone Sanders, who once said Democrats "don't need white people" leading the party, also joined in on the fight.

Transcript, via CNN:

LEMON: Our very own Jeffery Lord making a statement today that raised not some eyebrows, a lot of eyebrows.

Let's discuss it now. Bakari Sellers, Salena Zito, Symone Sanders and Jeffrey Lord is here.

Jeffrey, you have anything you want to say before we get started?

LORD: No. I mean, I think the coverage of me by CNN today has been very fair. I mean, I have no quarrels with it. I had every opportunity to speak up and present my point of view. We disagree.

LEMON: OK. All right.

LORD: You know, beyond that --

LEMON: All right. Let's play it then. Here is what you said earlier this morning on CNN about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and about President Trump, a comparison. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LORD: I want to say something here that I know will probably drive some people crazy. But think of President Trump as the Martin Luther King of health care.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Jeffrey. Jeffrey.

LORD: When I was a kid, President Kennedy did not introduce the civil rights bill because he said it wasn't popular. He didn't have the votes for it, et cetera. Dr. King kept putting people in the streets in harm's way to put the pressure on so that the bill would be introduced.

SANDERS: Jeffrey, do you understand that Dr. King was marching for civil rights because people that look like me were being beaten. Dogs were being sick on them. Basic human rights were being repelled from these people really because of the color of their skin. So let's not equate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a humanitarian and Noble Peace prize winner to the vagina grabbing president Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Wow.

SANDERS: Never forget.

LEMON: OK. Listen. That was morning TV. So Symone, you know, hey, I got to commend you. You understand, Jeffrey, that, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a civil rights hero. Did you realize what you were saying there?

LORD: Sure, because I'm a Dr. King is a hero of mine and has been since I was a kid.

Don, look, I used Dr. King. Let me go to other races. Let's go with Gandhi, Dr. King's hero. Let's go to Senator Eugene McCarthy or Tom Hayden on the Vietnam War who used the same tactic, at least Tom Hayden did, of shutting down things to draw attention to the Vietnam War. It is a tactic. It is a colorless strategy that was used very effectively by Dr. King for civil rights, by Gandhi to get independence from India, by Vietnam protests for which I was once one for a bit in the 1960s and 70s and the Vietnam War.

LEMON: Jeffrey? Jeffrey, that's a reach. I mean, and you do you remember --?

No. It is not a reach, Don.

LORD: You do remember two days ago what happened with Sean Spicer with a very ill thought out comparison as well. Some things you just -- some comparisons you just don't make.

LORD: Dr. King wanted to shut things down to draw attention to the lack of civil rights. He was right to do so. I believe it then. I believe it passionately now.

LEMON: I think you're very --

SANDERS: So Don, I have talk a lot about on CNN about the importance of protest. And protest is designed to make people uncomfortable. So the way Jeffrey talks about the "tactics" quote-unquote that Dr. King and other civil rights leaders used, it really does not encapsulate everything that was going on. People were putting their bodies and their lives on the line because their right to exist was being threatened.

LORD: I agree.

SANDERS: And so what you said this morning, Jeffrey, is that you equated people literally putting their lives on the line for basic human rights, civil rights. You equated that to what Donald Trump is doing in terms of talking about withholding -- withholding health care for millions of people and letting it collapse in an attempt to get his way to serve his political leanings.

LEMON: Do you think Dr. King, Jeffrey, would agree with taking health care away from 20 so odd million people?

LORD: I think if Dr. King talked to some of people I have who lost family members to Obamacare that he might agree with them.

SANDERS: You know what? Let me tell you something really quick. My father passed way a month ago Saturday. He had a stroke. And he received excellent care up until his last breath because we had coverage. There are millions of people across this country who depend on this life saving coverage of the affordable care act. My mother, she had cancer. She is cancer survivor because of programs like the mammogram program that exists at Planned Parenthood where folks can go in catch it in stage one. And before it takes their lives.

LORD: We are straying from the point here.

SANDERS: No, we are playing with people's lives here. And what happens when people like Donald Trump, when folks like you equate, try to minimize it, try to politicize it, it is horrible and it is wrong.

LORD: I'm not minimizing anything.

SANDERS: Health care is damn important in this country. Republicans, Democrats, and independents, I think they all agree. No one is going to tell you Obamacare is perfect. Things need to change. But we have to build on the success. People have to come to the table. We cannot play with people's lives here and that is exactly what is happening right here, right now on this program.

LORD: Absolutely not. I mean, you are making this all up from -- you know, there is example after example. This is a strategy.

LEMON: Did you take in mind when you made those comments, Jeffrey, did you take in mind that there are people out there that Symone who feel like Symone who are living with this every day, people who would be insulted by a comparison, quite frankly, to someone who said he had at will can grab people by the genitals or women to make that comparison to --

LORD: But I didn't do that, Don.

LEMON: You did, Jeffrey. I mean, we were all listening. We all have ears. And listen. You are a nice enough man, but I don't think you understand the comparison that you were making.

LORD: I compared the strategy, Don. I compared the strategy.

LEMON: Was it necessary? Was it necessary to make that comparison? Because you can compare a lot of people just like Sean Spicer when he compared - when he has made the Hitler comparison. But was it necessary, Jeffrey? Do you understand? Was it necessary? Do you think it was necessary? You couldn't have made your point by doing something else?

SANDERS: Sure. It's a tactic. It's a color blind tactic. Strategy.

LEMON: We don't live in a color blind society. But, go on. Go ahead.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: If I may because this conversation is --

LORD: That's what he is working for every day.

SELLERS: This conversation is amazing. And my heart goes out to Symone and her family and my prayers are with them every single day just like the other Americans that are going through trials and tribulation that's that many people cannot imagine.

But the fact is as quote earlier, I have to quote again, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said of all forms of inequality, injustice and health is the most shocking and inhumane. So I think that when people -- you can't just talk about Dr. King and whitewash him and eliminate the context. And that is what we are talking to you about, Jeffrey. You can't say it's the same tactic but one was talking about taking away health care and one was talking about making sure that black citizens had equality under the law. You can't look at this in a vacuum.

And even more importantly - I mean, I think that the level of political discourse that we have and whether or not it comes from you or whether or not it comes from Sean Spicer or the president of the United States is extremely low in this country right now. And that is the trouble that many people have. Many people are aghast by the fact that you can make a comparison between Donald Trump and Martin Luther King Jr., something that is unfounded.

LORD: I did not do it. And how many time you set up the straw band, I did not do that.

SANDERS: You did.

LEMON: OK. Jeffrey, let me ask you something. You have three people you work with, right. You work with Bakari, you work with me, you work with Symone, three people of color. And --

LORD: No. No. No.

LEMON: Let me get the point out. We are telling you that that comparison was insulting and you are ignoring it. Don't you think you should take that into consideration? And whether or not you're trying to make a point or not, even if it's to the point that I offended you and I'm sorry.

LORD: Don, when I lived was a teenager in the south and my dad lost his job standing up for a black waitress --.

LORD: You are not answering my question now. You are not answering my question in the moment. Don't take me back into some before the war crap. I want to hear what you are saying to the co-workers you work with now, Jeffrey. Answer the question now. I don't want to hear about something from 50 damn years ago. I want to hear now to the co-workers, to the people of color you work with on this network every single day who were offended by your remarks. You are not listening to us.

LORD: Don, come on. Come on. This isn't right. This is not moral. We don't judge people by color in this country. That is racist. It is wrong.

SANDERS: Jeffrey, let me tell you something.

LEMON: You know, Jeffrey, you are crazy if you think we don't judge people by color in this country.

SANDERS: I am a black woman, Jeffrey. I don't have the luxury of --

LORD: You're an American.

SANDERS: Every single day I walk out of my house. Someone sees me as a black woman, regardless of how I see myself, I'm a black man. Don is a black man. Bakari is a black man. You have the luxury of walking out of the house and just being an American.

LEMON: You don't have to think about it.

SANDERS: You do not have to think about it. And that my friend is a position of privilege. When you have the opportunity to hear from the other side to listen, to have a real dialogue, you should take it.

SELLERS: To Symone and Jeffrey, I think this is the conversation that - this is gap in America that we have today. Because there are so many people who have these racial blind spots.

Jeffrey, genuinely does not believe -- does not believe that anything he said this morning was incorrect, disingenuous, wrong, or harmful. That is a problem. And we can't -- if you can't have that empathy for someone who just literally told you that their father died or I told you my father was shot or Don is -- we have two black personalities on late night TV and one of them is telling you he is offended by it, sitting here before you. If you can't understand that empathy, then --.

LEMON: We got a problem. I got to take a break. We will be back.

LEMON: Back thou with my panel.

Salena, you haven't had a chance to speak. What do you think of this conversation?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, as a child of the '60s who grew up with the civil rights movement that played out in front of any front yard, from the kids I went to school with, to the preacher who lived across the street from my family and was very involved with the movement, I struggle very much to see the comparison between the tactics of the civil rights movement and the tactics of President Trump with the health care movement. With all due respect, Jeffrey, the civil rights movements like great

movements in this country that had good results, women's suffrage, the civil rights, the civil war, the American revolution, these were brought up through churches and through activism. And they were about making people's lives safer and better. And what Mr. Trump is doing on health care is a boardroom tactic. It's smart. It's politics. But I don't see the comparison at all.

LEMON: Jeffrey, I'll give you the last word on this.

LORD: I see the comparison with everything you have said. The American revolutions stopped the British government in its tracks. It upended things. Think the Boston tea party. So too the civil war. So too did countless other movements that was the point. That is the objective. The strategy is an old one. Dr. King used it. He was not the first. He is not going to be the last. He hasn't been the last. People in the pro-life movement try and use this by shutting down abortion clinics. I mean, the objectives is to so disrupt that you get the other side to negotiate to an agreement. That's the objective of the strategy no matter who uses it.

LEMON: Jeffery, you haven't listened to anything we said.

LORD: Don, Don, you're talking liberal to me. That's what you're doing.

LEMON: No, I'm talking real. And this is real. I'm talking human. You are going to sit here on television and tell us that you don't notice the color. I notice the color of your hair. I notice when someone has red hair. I know you have white hair. I know Symone is wearing white. I know I'm wearing blue. It's insulting when you are stating something that is not -- that is not in reality. And we are sitting here --

LORD: Don, you have to make it reality.

LEMON: Will you let me finish? Jeffery, I'm talking to you. Will you let me finish?

LORD: Make it possible. It's denial of Dr. King.

LEMON: Dr. King means something different to the people who are sitting here than he meant to you. He wasn't just a tactic for us. He is a real person who helped me to be able to get here and Symone to be able to sit here.

LORD: Yes, yes, exactly.

LEMON: And for Bakari to be able to sit here and Salena and for you to come on.

LORD: Yes.

LEMON: And give some reckless comparison to his legacy.

Good night.

LORD: You should not be judged by the color of your skin.

LEMON: Good night. We're done.

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