CNN’s Don Lemon Tells Woman Accusing Bill Cosby of Rape She Could Have Bitten Her Way to Safety

Following weeks of renewed rape allegations against comedian Bill Cosby, CNN host Don Lemon wanted Joan Tarshis, who has accused Cosby of sexual assault, to know she could have escaped the alleged 1969 attack, if she had used her teeth as a weapon during oral sex.

Lemon, insisting he was not trying to be “crude,” suggested this tactic while interviewing Tarshis on CNN Tonight:

Lemon: You know, there are way not to perform oral sex if you didn’t want to do it.

Tarshis: Oh, 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: I didn’t even think of it.

Lemon: Biting.

Tarshis: Ouch.

Lemon: Yes. I had to ask. I mean, it is, yeah.

The awkward exchange followed an interview Tarshis gave to Lemon the day before, in which she claimed she had lied to Cosby about having an STD in order to convince him not to rape her. She alleged that Cosby then forced her perform oral sex on him. In the first interview, Lemon asked, “Why didn’t you tell police?”

Update, Wednesday, November 19: Following the backlash incited by Lemon’s comments, the CNN host issued the following statement Wednesday afternoon: “As a victim myself I would never want to suggest that any victim could have prevented a rape. If my question struck anyone as insensitive, I’m sorry as that was not my intention.” In the past, Lemon has discussed being sexually abused as a child.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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