MEDIA
07/03/2013 09:47 am ET Updated Jul 03, 2013

CNN's Don Lemon: Media Treating Rachel Jeantel Like 'A Caricature'

CNN

CNN's Don Lemon joined the chorus of critics who chastised the media over its treatment of Rachel Jeantel, the star witness in the George Zimmerman trial, in an interview with Salon published on Wednesday.

Jeantel was on the phone with Trayvon Martin moments before Zimmerman shot and killed him. She took the witness stand in the trial, and her testimony became another issue of controversy in the case. Some viewers criticized her demeanor, while other viewers took issue with the way defense attorney Don West treated Jeantel and critics' ability to relate to a black teenager, or lack thereof.

When asked what he made of the media's treatment of Jeantel, Lemon accused the press of portraying her as "a caricature of a person."

"I don’t think it’s fair for a 19-year-old to be treated as such," he told Salon. "She is 19, regardless of what color she is. I don’t know many 19-year-olds who have the weight of a trial resting on them."

Observers have said that Jeantel's testimony represent the tangled relationships between race, class and law enforcement in the case and in the country at large. Lemon echoed that sentiment in the interview, saying:

"Most African-Americans understood what she was saying... [Critics] were saying she was almost pre-lingual. Well, they don’t teach cursive in schools. I know plenty of kids who don’t learn cursive in schools, and they don’t have that judgment put on their heads because they’re not in the middle of a trial. It’s a difference in communication between people of different backgrounds."

The CNN host — who recently hosted a special called "The N Word" based on the events of the Zimmerman trial and Paula Deen's racism scandal — also suggested that the defense may have hurt itself because "the perception was that they were beating up on and badgering a 19-year-old regardless of what you thought about her testimony." Click over to Salon for the full interview.

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