CNN late-night anchor Don Lemon has revealed that the presidency of Donald Trump has proven a threat to his personal safety, and taken a severe toll on his off-camera life.
It has even left him questioning his future on air.
Lemon told the audience at the Financial Times’ “Future of News” conference in New York City on Thursday that he was not sure how long he could keep doing his CNN show while Trump was in the White House.
“I don’t know if it’s worth this level of toxicity,” he said. “I’m 10 years older than when he rode down the escalator in July 2015.”
The Trump era has threatened “my privacy, my safety and security, and the safety and security of my loved ones and my family,” Lemon said, in remarks first reported by The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline.
“I’m black and gay on cable television in primetime—a unicorn—and I’m a target of the right, a target of white extremists, neo-Nazis and of the president,” Lemon said.
Asked if he was considering doing a different job that is less stressful and exposed, Lemon replied: “I absolutely love what I do… I have the best job in broadcast television.”
He noted that the president is clearly a viewer—even when he claims never to watch and calls Lemon “the dumbest man on television”—because he occasionally reacts to a story Lemon has just presented on air.
But Lemon conceded: “I wonder how long I will continue to do this particular job.”
He said that when the heat ratchets up, he jokes that he would like to become a celebrity chef on television instead. Lemon added that he’ll always be committed to journalism, “but maybe I’ll do it in a different way.”
A sharp and regular critic of Trump on his eponymous two-hour weeknight show, Lemon said he feels that his personal safety is at risk.
“My personal information has been doxxed,” he continued, adding that several apparent Trump fans have shouted racist and homophobic insults at him on the street.
After making sure that there were no children in the audience, Lemon told of an encounter recently in which an antagonist came up to him and said, “I’m sick of watching you. We built this country. I can’t wait for CNN to fire your black ass, you faggot.”
He told conference-goers that apparent Trump supporters have sent him abusive text messages and phone calls, and made hoax complaints to police about him—“accusing me of doing certain things.”
He then finds that he must defend himself to the cops responding to the false complaints.
Lemon, 53, is engaged to be married to partner Tim Malone.
Earlier this week the anchor told The Daily Beast's Tim Teeman of the immense progress made in LGBT equality since the Stonewall Riots of almost 50 years ago.
“The riots helped teach the larger society that gay lives have meaning, that trans lives have meaning,” Lemon said. “I must say it gave me a new appreciation of my trans brothers and sisters and my brothers and sisters who perform in drag. They risked their lives fighting the powers that be because it was simply the right thing to do. They were fed up. I am eternally grateful to them.”
Of the 50 years since Stonewall, Lemon said: “We’ve come a long way since 1969. Until recently I thought that it would never be possible for my relationships to be public.
“Never in a million years did I think I’d ever be able to legally marry my partner. And right now... I’m engaged to the man of my dreams, making wedding plans and contemplating having children. I’m also watching America embrace an openly gay man who may have a real chance at becoming president of the United States. That’s progress, but the struggle isn’t over.”