Don Lemon Has Very Strong Reaction to Stephen Colbert's Joke About Him

Stephen Colbert poked fun at CNN's Don Lemon on Thursday night, and Lemon's response was surprisingly serious. Colbert assured viewers that he and Lemon are friends before dropping a few punchlines on Lemon's on-air outfit that day – a blue suit jacket over a gray hoodie and gray sweatpants. As Lemon pointed out, the hoodie has taken on some strong political connotations in recent years.

Colbert reminded Late Show fans that he and Lemon are friends and that he watches CNN This Morning just about every day. He even joked that Lemon is his "SoulCycle emergency contact" before putting up an image of Lemon's outfit on screen. He said: "I know they want to add some comedy to CNN, and this is hilarious, but how do you report the news in that outfit? How do you actually talk about tragedy wearing that, because what could be more tragic than that look that he had this morning?"

Colbert cracked a few more jokes, and the next morning Lemon seemed to laugh along when he watched the clip live on CNN This Morning. However, when his co-anchor Kaitlain Collins asked if he wanted to respond to Colbert, Lemon was surprisingly somber. He said: "OK, so look, I love Stephen Colbert. I think he's funny, obviously, I love comedians, they have a little leeway. It was interesting, I didn't expect that reaction. For me, it was sort of like a Rorschach test – wearing that outfit."

Lemon began to dissemble on the different connotations of "sweater," "sweatshirt" and "hoodie" before pausing and nearly backing off of the topic. He said: "Anyways, I don't know, I don't know if I want to get into it. Stephen, here's the thing: I make lots of different outfit choices, right? And when I took this job, one of the things was, 'we want you to relax and be more comfortable and go with sort of what is happening in the world right now. People aren't wearing suits as much. Lots has changed since the pandemic, right?"

However, it was clear that comfort wasn't the only thing on Lemon's mind. For one thing, he turned to Collins and mentioned the differences in the way that men's outfits are "scrutinized" compared to women's appearances on the air, saying: "Men never get scrutinized that much."

At the same time, Lemon clearly alluded to the way that race can shape a conversation about fashion as well. He mentioned the infamous incident where Barack Obama was eviscerated by the media for wearing a tan-colored suit, as well as the symbolic significance that hoodies took on in general after the murder of Trayvon Martin. By contrast, he pointed out that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has worn a hoodie for many of his most prominent public appearances, and has been lauded as a hero by many.

"I think if Barack Obama can get criticized for a tan suit, if Volodymyr Zelensky can fight a war in a hoodie, if Trayvon Martin can start a revolution in a hoodie, then Don Lemon can tell the news in a hooded sweater," Lemon said. Addressing the camera directly, he went on: "Stephen, I love you, I'm glad you started this conversation, but it is like Rorschach test. I was actually surprised at who said what about what I wore yesterday. And by the way, I don't just roll out of bed and not think about it. I think about exactly everything I wear."

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Colbert has not been back on the air since then, but it seems likely that he will respond to Lemon and that the two will have an even deeper conversation on this topic. CNN This Morning airs on weekdays starting at 6 a.m. ET on CNN, while The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs at 11:35 p.m. ET on CBS.