‘You desperately want censorship’: Elon Musk defends free speech as Don Lemon insists X needs ‘content moderation’

News & Politics

Former CNN host Don Lemon sparred with owner of the X platform and entrepreneur Elon Musk over alleged hate speech on the app, which Lemon said is need of content moderation.

Lemon launched a talk show across most social media platforms after being fired from CNN in 2023. The first episode of “The Don Lemon Show” featured and interview with Musk inside a Tesla manufacturing plant.

After discussing Tesla and pressing Musk on who he will support in the 2024 presidential election, Lemon began a lengthy segment endorsing the idea that X is in desperate need of content moderation.

“These are just a handful of extremely … anti-Semitic and racist tropes and tweets, and as of this morning they’re still on X,” Lemon said, while showing Musk printouts of offensive memes of varying degrees.

“We delete things if they are illegal,” Musk replied.

“But these have been up there for a while,” Lemon came back.

“Are they illegal?” Musk asked.

“They’re not illegal, but they’re hateful and they can lead to violence,” Lemon decried, showcasing the crux of most of the former network anchor’s argument. Lemon then cited studies purporting to show an increase in “hate speech” on X — which Musk refuted — and argued with the billionaire at length as to why the platform should have stricter controls on speech.

Musk took Lemon’s remarks as an advocacy for censorship.

“So, Don, you love censorship is what you’re saying,” Musk asserted.

“No, I don’t love censorship. I believe in moderation, but I don’t believe in censorship,” Lemon stated.

“Moderation is a propaganda word for censorship. … If something’s illegal we’re going to take it down, if it’s not illegal, then we’re putting our thumb on the scale and we’re being censors,” the SpaceX operator explained.

Lemon attempted to connect online “hate speech” to mass shooters across the world and the “great replacement theory,” which he called a “Jewish conspiracy.” Lemon complained that conspiracy theories have perpetuated on X, again due to a lack of content moderation.

Just when it seemed the two were going to move on from the topic, Musk reiterated that Lemon was advocating for censorship outside United States laws.

“You want censorship, and I don’t,” Musk insisted.

“No, I don’t want censorship; I want responsibility,” Lemon attempted to explain.

“You desperately want censorship,” Musk retorted. “You want censorship so bad you can taste it. … We have a responsibility to adhere to the law, and if people want the law changed, they should talk their elected representative and get the law changed, and then we will adhere to the law.”

Lemon’s new show was originally supposed to be an X-backed show, as part of a new lineup that included sports host Jim Rome and former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii).

However, Lemon reported that their deal had been squashed by Musk just hours after their sit-down was recorded.

Soon thereafter, it was reported that Lemon had made incredible requests as part of his contract, which included a podcast in outer space via SpaceX, a Tesla Cybertruck, a $5 million advance on an $8 million salary, and equity in the X platform.

Agent Jay Sures from the United Talent Agency told the New York Post that the allegations were “absolute, complete utter nonsense without an iota of truth to it.”

X declined to comment on the details of the partnership.

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