With the publication last May of his unflinching memoir, Transparent, Emmy-winning CNN news anchor Don Lemon came out to the world at large. In a interview with The New York Times, he noted, “I guess this makes me a double minority now.”
Born in Louisiana, Lemon made his first on-air inroads as a co-anchor on Chicago’s NBC5 News and as a correspondent for The Today Show and The NBC Nightly News. Joining CNN as a reporter six years ago, he’s gone on to cover the 2008 presidential election (during which he was pushed into a golf cart by Marcus Bachmann) and the accusations of child molestation against Bishop Eddie Long (revealing he had been molested as a child in the process) and hosted a panel on transgender representations on The Joy Behar Show.
Currently a network correspondent and weekend anchor for CNN Newsroom, Lemon, 45, has won the Edward R. Murrow Award for covering the D.C. sniper’s capture and local Emmys for reports on Craigslist, Chicago real estate and Africa’s AIDS epidemic. In 2009, he made Ebony’s 150 Most Influential African-Americans list.
In an age of sycophantic news coverage, he stands out for his willingness to challenge public figures and his own industry. He certainly didn’t flinch from his own truth in Transparent, revealing the difficulties of being both black and gay. He condemns the “pray the gay away” approach and, in many interviews about Transparent, has called attention to the tragic suicide of gay Rutgers student Tyler Clementi. He has also accepted the mantle of spokesperson for the LGBT community, speaking at events for HRC and GLAAD and receiving honors from the Anti-Violence Project and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalism Association
In a sense, Lemon is the anti-Anderson Cooper: He has come to understand that being honest with the public about who you are and the road you’ve traveled can help, not hinder a journalist.
“I abhor hypocrisy,” Lemon once told the Times. “I think if you’re going to be in the business of news, and telling people the truth, of trying to shed light in dark places, then you’ve got to be honest. You’ve got to have the same rules for yourself as you do for everyone else… I think it would be great if everybody could be out. I think if I had seen more people like me who are out and proud, it wouldn’t have taken me 45 years to say it.”