“CNN This Morning” host Don Lemon is pushing back against the criticism that the cable network skews liberal.
“Late Show” host Stephen Colbert asked Lemon during Monday’s episode about his new boss, CEO Chris Licht, who has made sweeping programming changes at CNN. Prior to taking over for Jeff Zucker in May, Licht coincidentally served as showrunner and executive producer on “The Late Show.”
“He would stand right over there and hit the applause sign before we went to commercial — basically all his job was. Now he has a really hard job, running CNN,” Colbert said. “The word on the street is you guys aren’t allowed to be liberal anymore. Is that the case?”
“I don’t think we ever were liberal,” Lemon replied.
“What?” Colbert said. “That’s not me saying that, that’s the people out there saying he’s not letting you be liberal anymore.”
Lemon said that he believes Licht wants the network to welcome “sensible Republicans” and “hold people to account” while also making them feel comfortable.
“If you invite someone in your house, you want to make them feel comfortable, but also, by the nature of what we do, we have to hold people to account,” he explained. “That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to be liberal or conservative or whatever. It just means we are doing what we do – and that’s good journalism.”
However, he emphasized that in some instances, holding people to account requires being confrontational.
“Listen, I have confrontational conversations with people I love and I have uncomfortable conversations with people that I love and I think it’s necessary. And I think it’s also necessary to do that on CNN,” Lemon continued. “But you can do that without being vitriolic. I think not being vitriolic is a better way of putting it. You can do that and not have vitriol. As people say, you can disagree without being disagreeable. That’s what our mission is.”
In addition to Lemon moving from his previous primetime slot, CNN’s Brian Stelter, Jeffrey Toobin and John Harwood have all exited the network.
Watch the full “Late Show” segment in the video above.