In an interview with Kara Swisher on her Sway podcast, CNN’s Don Lemon says “every day in cable news is like a knife fight…you’ve got to break through.”

Is it that pull to “break through” that leads Don Lemon to speak bluntly—calling Donald Trump a racist, for instance—to grab the attention of people who could be watching something else, scrolling through social media or any number of other ways of consuming information?

“That doesn’t mean that I have to be bombastic,” Lemon says. “But I think people want to hear from the host that they’ve invested in. And it’s O.K. if it’s me pointing out the obvious when it is so ridiculous.”

Lemon says he expects more opinionated talk in prime time. “I do think that we should bring on more reporters, more experts, more fact checkers, yes yes yes. But I also — I do think — you have to realize that there’s a place for it.” Lemon says that means by the time viewers tune in to his CNN Tonight at 10 p.m. ET, they’ve heard the news and they look to Lemon for a point of view. “They’ve already seen Lester. They’ve already seen Norah…so they want to sit down and they want to say, well, what is this about, Don? What is this about? How do you feel about that?”


In the interview, Lemon talks about the upcoming departure of CNN boss Jeff Zucker (“I think the best thing to happen to CNN— besides Ted Turner—was Jeff Zucker,” he says.) and whether CNN carries blame for the rise of Donald Trump.

“Does CNN have some culpability? Yes,” he says. “And I think all news networks did. I don’t think the networks realized the assault on truth and reality that Trump was going to have. And if we did, we probably would not have put his rallies live on T.V. unchecked.”