Don Lemon is widely known for polished anchoring on CNN, where as a reporter he also works to uncover the news. But behind that persona was a web of secrets. Now he is revealing more of himself with his new memoir Transparent.
In the book, Lemon writes about being sexually abused as a child. He identifies the abuser as the son of his mother's close friend. But the news first emerged spontaneously during his television interview with young adult members of an Atlanta-based megachurch where the pastor was accused of sexually abusing some young men.
The members believed that the pastor, Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, did not look like a molester or abuser.
Lemon retorted that abusers come in all shapes and sizes, and that public appearances can be deceiving.
He tells NPR's Michel Martin, "And I said the reason I know that is because I had an abuser when I was a child."
Lemon said that his news staff was stunned by what happened, and they were silent for the rest of the show.
Lemon didn't expect the news to be a shock, he said, but it turned out that way because people do not like discussing topics such as homosexuality and racism.
"And to have someone who is an anchorman say that on television...I didn't realize the impact of that," he said.
Journalist Don Lemon is shown in this publicity image released by CNN.
Journalist Don Lemon is shown in this publicity image released by CNN. ASSOCIATED PRESS
The process of writing Transparent led to another admission: that he is gay. He said, "I cannot write a book about my life and not talk about what I had been for the past 44 years – I was 44 at the time – and a big part of that is being gay."
Lemon is also transparent about his family in the memoir. At a late age, he discovered that his parents weren't legally bound. His father, who he called "Mr. Richardson," was married to another woman while in a relationship with Lemon's mother. His mother was also married to another man but divorced him because he "wasn't treating her right," Lemon shares. She then became Mr. Richardson's legal secretary.
Lemon said the discovery taught him that secrets never help to serve anything. "I think secrets are something that you keep or are afraid to share because you think they're going to harm you in some way. So if you don't have any secrets, then there's no way anyone can harm you."
Another section of the book covers Lemon's pursuit of higher education. It took him seven years to get his college degree, and he stuck at it even though he was already reporting at a major market.
Lemon said, "I wanted to earn everything on the merit. People can call me gay, the f-word, whatever they want. But when people say that I have gotten to where I am because I am black, it is insulting. Because I will take my work home, I will work 24 hours a day. Many people who know me call me the hardest working man in the news business because you're never ever going to outwork me."
When asked how he feels now that he has been transparent about his life and sexuality, Lemon responds that coming out on May16, 2011 marked the first day of his life.
"I want to go and take trips. I want to do things with my boyfriend. Before, I just isolated myself and worked all the time. Now the job... it's not as important. My relationships are more important. I'm more connected. I'm happier. Whatever happens with my career, I'm going to prosper no matter what," Lemon said.