Don Lemon Says Journalists Should Say N****er On TV, Not ‘The N Word’

April 10, 2012  |  

Within a one-month time span two white CNN reporters have said the word n***er on air in the midst of reporting on stories involving hateful language used toward African Americans and amongst the apologies that have been issued, a lot of people are still weighing in on how appropriate or inappropriate the word is in news coverage.

Don Lemon, a CNN news anchor himself, recently spoke on the issue during the network’s racism free zone segment, which is supposed to symbolize the ability to express your opinion without judgement, and he said he doesn’t have an issue with journalists using the word. During the debate he said:

“I hate saying ‘the n-word,’ I think it takes the value out of what that word really means, especially when we’re reporting it.

I don’t care what color the reporter is, I think someone should say ‘that person called him a n***er,’ rather than ‘the n-word,’ because it sanitizes it.”

Of course, here comes the white correspondent with the argument that “you confuse white people because when you say it, we think why can’t we say it” and luckily Don Cleared that up quickly, saying by no means is he talking about the use of the word in a casual context, he’s only speaking on the aspect of reporting. I’d also like thank Goldie Taylor for pointing out the fact that no white person on this earth is confused about that word.

Don brings up an interesting point, though. It does hold more weight in a sense to have the word n***er pierce your ears but you still don’t feel the amount of hate that was behind it in its original use so I don’t think it’s really necessary to get the point across in reporting. Most networks seem to feel that way as well. Check out the full debate on the topic in the clip below.

Do you agree with Don or is saying “the n-word” sufficient to get the point across in news reporting?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

More on Madame Noire!

Trending on MadameNoire

View Comments
Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. XOXO-MN
  • Then they should be able to use such words as F_G, Red neck, cracka, uncle tom, etc. Fair game…. Eoud you at your little young kidlisening to suchlanguage on tv?

    • SupaMac


  • This FA* done lost his mind!

  • Nehemiah53

    Look this is all political correctness running
    amuck if a reporter is reading from a text, report or a facebook post they
    should read it as it is written even if it
    include the word n****r, f****t, punk, b***h etc. it is what it is and reporters
    should report what it is, we should not be that sensitive, and we are not that weak because weak people want people to be afraid of

  • What’s that saying “Give an inch, they’ll take a mile’ No! I am not ok with giving them the ok for usage, “the N word” holds enough punch as far as I’m concerned! We are already treading on race roits so the use of this word would only incite deeper anger AND suggest to some viewers, especially those dying to say it in the open, that they can be freer to use it. And, we all know what dangers are in this!!

    Don is doing racist at heart a disservice in suggesting this!

  • This is very interesting.. I believe that we should leave that door closed. I don’t want to hear PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS sounding like common rappers. Then whats next? They start calling homosexuals f*****s on TV? Whether reading someone’s original comment or otherwise, the language is hurtful, and I don’t need you to SAY it for me to understand that.

  • Flintgrey

    They should say N****R because that’s what many of them think we are. checkout

  • FromUR2UB

    I completely agree.  Within the context of a news report, when a journalist is quoting someone, the word should be spoken.  In a classroom, it should probably be limited to college instruction where the word pertains to course study.  He’s right though.  Replacing the word with a euphemism cleans it up…takes some of the sting away.  It doesn’t change the hearts of people.  

    I don’t like the word used as a term of “endearment” among blacks, because the word is associated with death.  But that’s not the business of other races.  How a group chooses to address themselves, among themselves, is their business.  Just as family members may have their own way of joking with one another, they often take offense if someone outside the family says certain things to, or about their family. White people know the difference, so they need to cut out the phony naivete’.   And why do some of them seem to think that friendship with blacks is supposed to come with “epithet privileges”?

  • Mls2698

    Don’t squash it, its a part of history, Just like anything else. Example: Aunt Jemima, portrayals of blacks eating watermelon, the blackest doll with big red lips you could ever see, nappy head doll, scarf head doll, big butt doll. None of those things are PC now, but at one time they were figurines people bought, and are a part of the history of people and their inner feelings. Keep it alive so that you can remember.

  • Rachael

    Hmmmm. Everyone wants to say that the reporter used the language because she was simply reporting the truth, BUT when I think back to all of the times I’ve heard someone be referred to as a f****got -the reporters in those instances ALWAYS sanitized the comment and said something like there was a “homosexual epithets involved” or something to that affect.  Why shouldn’t these reporters have to sanitize hate speech? You think the public will misunderstand the gravity of the situation if you say “He used the n word” or “She called him the f word”??? Lemons logic makes no sense. I disagree with him completely. Seeing this language on the news only encourages people to use hate speech and try to clean it up with, “Oh I was just repeating what so-in-so said.” Its a cop out.

  • KIR12

    I bet he wouldn’t say F@g. Which is also what he is

    • Izzy White

      Cut it out & grow up! Geesh! 

    • Kim


    • Nehemiah53

      They want people to be afraid of them!

  • Brittanym Wright

    The reporter used it in a context to inform not divide. She wasn’t stating an opinion, simply reporting the news. Lemon is right to defend his colleague. We don’t live in a politically correct world, they were reporting from that standpoint.  

  • guest

    Yeah that’s tough. I don’t know. Maybe they should just say they called the person a racial epithet (had to look it up). It’s not so much that you fear the word, but you respect the people it was originally used negatively against. The way I look at it reporters don’t use curse words during their shows, even if they are reporting on cursing. I think it somehow takes away from the professionalness(I know not a word, too lazy to think of the correct one) of the reporting. Then again where is the limit drawn for future words? I think we should at least start with current words that are known to be offensive.

    • Ladybug94

      I agree.  Also they need to keep in mind during earlier news airing there may be children present and they pick up everything they hear.