CNN's Don Lemon

Police officers in Omaha, Neb., rankled social media users last week when they released a video of a black toddler swearing as a warning about “the thug cycle” in America, prompting CNN’s Don Lemon to do some soul searching.

During an appearance on OutFront Friday night, Lemon said the story had become “personal” and seized the moment to address critics who said it was “racist” to use the term to describe an innocent 2-year-old child.

He argued that while the word had been “co-opted” by the hip-hop community in recent years, he said that every culture had used it over the last hundred years. To illustrate his point, he used a montage of pop culture uses that included everything from Tyler Perry’s Madea to Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, according to Mediaite.

Even if the police officers’ motives were “racist,” Lemon argued, “why not take the outrage you have behind that to actually use the energy for good to actually stop a detrimental cycle of any name?” He said, “If you don’t want to be treated like a thug or be considered one, then don’t act like one.”

Additionally, Lemon sparred Tuesday with commentator Marc Lamont Hill over the video. Hill said that it “sends the wrong message about young, black boys” for the police to release the video, but Lemon said that there was some value in drawing attention to the inappropriate behavior.


On Thursday, Mediaite reports that Nebraska authorities took the 3-year-old into protective custody, although no discernible crime had been committed.

Read more at Mediaite.