The Bill Cosby sexual assault saga is such a delicate subject, and it’s taken so many ugly twists and turns, that it was only a matter of time before CNN had a major screwup during its coverage. On Tuesday’s CNN Tonight, host Don Lemon did the honors.
Lemon was interviewing Joan Tarshis about her claim that Cosby raped her twice in 1969 when he suddenly steered the conversation to how she could have avoided the alleged rape. The awkward lecture culminated with Lemon suggesting Tarshis could/should have bitten Cosby’s penis. Here’s the bizarre exchange, (transcript via Media Matters, emphasis mine):
LEMON: Can I ask you this, because — and please, I don’t mean to be crude, OK?
LEMON: Because I know some of you — and you said this last night, that he — you lied to him and said “I have an infection, and if you rape me, or if you do — if you have intercourse with me, then you will probably get it and give it to your wife.”
LEMON: And you said he made you perform oral sex.
LEMON: You — you know, there are ways not to perform oral sex if you didn’t want to do it.
TARSHIS: Oh. Um, I was kind of stoned at the time, and quite honestly, that didn’t even enter my mind. Now I wish it would have.
LEMON: Right. Meaning the using of the teeth, right?
TARSHIS: Yes, that’s what I’m thinking you’re —
LEMON: As a weapon.
TARSHIS: Yeah, I didn’t even think of it.
LEMON: Biting. So, um —
LEMON: Yes. I had to ask. I mean, it is, yeah.
TARSHIS: Yes. No, it didn’t cross my mind.
The most mind-blowing portion of the exchange might actually be Lemon’s insistence that he “had to ask,” as if a producer was shoving the words down his throat. In which case, you know, there are ways to avoid something like that.