CNN’s Don Lemon and music mogul Russell Simmons finally came face to face and discussed Lemon’s controversial critique of the black community, and Simmons’ reaction to it.

Simmons previously wrote an open letter to Lemon, which Lemon responded to on the air. Now the two have finally hashed things out in an interview that aired Saturday.

Their exchange of words began about a month ago when Lemon commented on Fox News host Bill O’Reilly‘s assessment of the black community.

His assessment received a whirlwind of criticism including Simmons’, who sent out several tweets along with an open letter to Lemon. In response, Lemon welcomed Simmons to face him on the air.

Not being one to back down, Simmons took the challenge and did the interview with Lemon to settle the score once and for all.

He began by explaining his strong reaction to Lemon’s commentary.

“Sometimes, if a black person that’s revered in the community that says something that’s — conservative, ” he explained, “and I think is part of a mindset that is hurtful to the community, people will say the problem with the black community — kids have their ass crack showing. The problem with the black community is they need education opportunities and need job opportunities. These realities are the ones we immediately to bring up and we are talking about uplifting our children.”

Lemon countered by asking “When you want to improve something, where does the first place — where is the first place you look?”

“Here,” Simmons said. “I look inside. When i want to improve — here is what I learned…”

“No. this is too good,” Lemon interrupted. “Why didn’t you — why didn’t you write a letter that said — I understand what Don Lemon was saying? We need to take personal responsibility.”

“I should have said that first,” Simmons conceded, but added “You have to say things in a way they go in instead of bounce off. Personal responsibility, I wouldn’t include the cultural expression so much.”

Simmons then told Lemon that “The greatest course of the destruction of the fabric of black community has been the prison industrial complex,” and explained the cycle of incarceration and poverty that results from it. He also cited the “lack of education opportunity.”

“If we go (to) school, and there’s no books and — teachers aren’t teaching, and the students are in a kind of situation where they don’t even have a gym class, they don’t have an art class,” he continued. “Without art, there is no way — you have to — exercise the creative muscles. That’s why we raise millions of dollar for the arts. ”

“Don’t mistake my passion for not — that I don’t like hip-hop,” Lemon objected. “I think it is an art. I think people like Jay-Z and Kanye West are great artists. Kids are dying every single minute and it is because, as you said, we had the responsibility or there are people being educated in prison culture. I think that helps perpetuate that education in prison culture. And I don’t understand why you can’t see that.”

Simmons defended hip-hop’s raw depictions of reality as essential to the form. “I think each individual artist has a responsibility to say what’s on their hearts. And some of it is not pretty. So I think that there are reflections of our reality and some cases, sad reality.”

Lemon asked how rap and hip-hop can be better, and Simmons replied, “Each individual can be better, but as an overall culture, it has to express our sad reality.”

They concluded by promising an ongoing conversation, and Simmons told Lemon “What you’ve been doing is giving what you can, and your intentions are good, and I respect you for it.”

Watch the full interview above.

Also On Black America Web:

9 thoughts on “VIDEO: Don Lemon and Russell Simmons Face Off on the Air

  1. Jas Do on said:

    Don! you let Russell get away with that same old soup poured from different cups. It was liken to the speakers at the 50th march on washington, al sharpton and the usual supects seeking votes. It is for this reason the AA community’s best days are behind us. Before I go, your comments about O’railey comment was on point

  2. Beverly Ward on said:


    I agreed with you, if you don’t show children anything but ghetto life, how are they suppose to be productive citizen in life. School is an important aspect of getting out of poverty, to say that we all have a chance at education is simple just a lie. We need a good solid education for our kids not some school system who don’t even promote the health of the student minds and the means to place adequate supplies to sustain. I don’t like it when these black new anchor people who always blaming the black cultural when politician are the real ass holes who the ones who make the ghettos

    • missy36 on said:

      Politicians are well aware of the fact that education is a person’s best chance out of poverty. That is why they are bulding more jails than schools. If those of us that like to look down on the less fortunate of us were educated ourselves we would know that the main source of revenue in the south has always been black people. From Slavery to Jim Crowe to the prision indutrial complex. Reublicans are going to do what ever they can to keep the system set up to keep the south’s main source of revenue it’s main source of revenue? Those of us with the “I got mine so get yours” attitude are no better than the people that legislate against us. The problems in the community are fixable but if black people, especially those of us that can, don’t step up and save ourselves we will always be in the situation we are in. We need Jesus and each other and we can make it.

  3. Russell: And your Rush Card is helping black people? No it isn’t!!f anything it’s hurting people with the high usage fees. If you want to really help why not open a Credit Union for people that have less than desirable credit, or options. Also why isn’t POOR PARENTING ever brought up. Lastly we’re preaching to the choir because people that NEED to hear this message aren’t on this blog, or any blog, and generally speaking aren’t listening to Russell, or Don

  4. Russell please stop with the EDUCATION BS!! All of us are given the opportunity for an education. Now the thing is that it’s up to us to take hold of it. Also stop with all this art-sy talk. Yes I know that’s your background, i.e., music, comedy, the arts, but we need to encourage our young people to go into medicine, science, engineering, and technology. There are a zillion people out there that want to be an artist, or Pro athletes in one form, or another. But how many people out there are striving to be doctors, lawyers, or a CEO at a Fortune 500 company. That’s the kind of careers that we need to be striving for!!

  5. Mr. French on said:

    Life is about choices particularly when conditions warrent good ones. Thing is, we don’t always have the luxury of determining those conditions.

    • PJ: “LIFE is about choices”….And that’s the bottom line. THANK YOU!!! That’s why some people who come from the same, or similar circumstances succeed (they make right choices), and some people don’t!! BLACK PEOPLE IT’S TIME OUT FOR ALL THE EXCUSES!!

      • missy36 on said:

        So it’s that simple Joy? If you are born to a 14 year old who’s mother is 15 years older than her and they don’t do what they should to care for you. What choices do you really have? If you are born in the projects with a project mentallity and you are surronded by others with that same mentality how are you given the chance to make to right choices. If no one comes to show that child something other than what they see everyday then they aren’t even going to be aware of their options. And since you’re all caps yelling at people, Are you one of the people that puts thir blood sweat and tears in to help or are you just yelling and looking down on people? I go in and help. I show kids something other than project life. You would be suprised at their reactions when some one reaches back and shows them something else. They can’t do it by themselves. I had a family that wasn’t about that ghetto life so my options to chose were greater than the ones who didn’t. All that yelling is fine Joy if you are putting in the work, If not…..Well, not cool.

Add Your Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s