CNN anchor Don Lemon called the televised meeting between President Trump and rapper Kanye West on Thursday a "minstrel show" that he could barely stomach to watch.
"I have no animosity for Kanye West. I'm just going to be honest and I may get in a lot of trouble for it. I actually feel bad for him," Lemon, who like West is African-American, said during a panel discussion after the afternoon Oval Office event. "What I saw was a minstrel show today. Him in front of all these white people embarrassing himself and embarrassing Americans, but mostly African-Americans because every one of them is sitting either at home or with their phones, watching this, cringing."
[Opinion: Republicans, you don't have to embrace Kanye West – it makes us look desperate]
West visited the White House to have lunch with Trump and meet with his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner to discuss a range of topics. With the cameras rolling, West, donning a "Make America Great Again" hat, emphatically talked about a number of issues, including crime in Chicago, the 13th Amendment, potential future clemencies, and his adoration of Trump.
West also said that he had been inaccurately diagnosed with bipolar disorder and rather he suffered from too little sleep.
Lemon called it a sad display in which Trump was "exploiting" a rapper who should take a break from the lime light.
"The president of the United States exploiting him. And I don't mean this in a disparaging way -- exploiting someone who needs help, who needs to back away from the cameras, who needs to get off stage, who needs to deal with his issues," he said. Lemon also said West's mother "is rolling over in her grave" and claimed "everybody's heads would be exploding" if someone like West had walked into the Oval Office when Barack Obama was president and uttered profanities as West did.
Trump has lauded West for helping bump his poll numbers among the black community, even as several black commentators spoke out against West and his support of Trump. In August, a Rasmussen poll determined that Trump's support in the African American community had surged to 36 percent, a near doubling from the previous year. But other polls showed support down in the 10 to 15 percent range.
West grabbed headlines in recent weeks with his appearance on the season premiere of "Saturday Night Live." West defended Trump and said people often confront him on how he can back a “racist" president.
“If I was concerned about racism, I would’ve moved out of America a long time ago,” West said. He also claimed he was "bullied" backstage for wearing a "MAGA" hat.
Lemon has routinely been critical of Trump as the president, in turn, has dubbed CNN and other media outlets that publish unfavorable news coverage of him and his administration "fake news." In August, Lemon said the commander in chief "traffics in racism and is fueled by bullying" after Trump tweeted, “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”
During the interview Trump referenced, James, an NBA star, spoke about the opening of an I Promise School for at-risk children in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, and whether he would ever consider running for office. James also said he thought Trump was using sports and athletes to divide the country.
Lemon has also challenged West on the issue of race. In May, he said took a swipe at the rapper after he suggested that slavery “sounds like a choice.”
“So to be clear — and I can’t believe that I actually need to say this — black and brown people who were enslaved for centuries had absolutely no choice,” Lemon said. “They weren’t just mentally enslaved. This wasn’t some kind of mind game. They were in real chains.”