A CNN segment about a federal judge’s ruling on National Security Agency surveillance turned into an all-out battle that led to the victorious attorney in the case actually getting kicked off the air.
Larry Klayman, a longtime Washington attorney frequently referred to as a “gadfly,” had from the start accused CNN anchor Don Lemon of being in the tank for President Barack Obama.
Before having him on, CNN aired a report about Klayman that highlighted a lawsuit he filed last year that Obama shouldn’t be president because no one has confirmed he’s a “natural-born citizen,” and featured footage of Klayman at a rally saying “we are now ruled, quote unquote, by a president who bows down to Allah.”
A former George W. Bush staffer in the report referred to Klayman as a “professional litigant” who “pretends that he’s fighting for the little guy when he’s really fighting for himself and his own, in my opinion, delusions of grandeur.”
When Klayman finally came onscreen, he started by addressing Lemon: “I think it’s important to note that you’re a big supporter of Obama, you have favored him in every respect, you have to do a hit piece to diminish a very important decision — ”
“Are you talking about me personally?” Lemon asked. “None of that is true, but go on.”
“Well, it is true, Don. I’ve watched you for many years. You’re an ultra-leftist and you’re a big supporter of Obama,” Klayman said. “Let’s talk about the NSA, let’s not talk about Larry Klayman. This victory is for the American people. It wasn’t for me. And you, as somebody from the left … should appreciate that you don’t have a police state in this country that’s going to be able to intimidate Americans to chill their free speech rights … rather than talking about that you’ve got to try to take out somebody that has challenged President Obama.”
Lemon said he was “not here to get into an argument” and that “nothing you have said about me has been correct.” When Klayman kept interrupting, Lemon threatened to cut his microphone.
It was then over to CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who dug into Klayman by saying the case was based on his “tin-foil hat paranoia about the NSA being after him.”
“He had some fantasy that the NSA was after him. This case is not about Larry Klayman, it’s about the metadata program that affects everybody, but the idea that Larry Klayman is the representative is simply outrageous,” Toobin said. “He is a professional litigant and lunatic who should not be a representative of the very important issues of this case.”
Klayman hit back at Toobin by saying he is “not a serious person” and “should not be doing legal commentary for CNN.”
“I think there are very serious issues here but the idea that you are the representative of them really is very unfortunate,” Toobin said. “Your paranoia and fantasies about the NSA being after you are unworthy of this important case.”
Things took another turn when Klayman said Toobin should “read the complaint rather than shooting your mouth off.”
“This is a disgrace, both of your conducts are a disgrace,” Klayman said.
“Oh my gosh. Are you OK?” Lemon asked.
“No, are you OK?” Klayman said.
Lemon told Klayman he wasn’t going to argue with him anymore and called for the producers to remove him from the screen.
Right before that happened, Klayman charged, “You’re a charter member of the ACLU, you believe in free speech right?” and then repeated “free speech!” as he was cut.
Continuing to discuss the case with Toobin, Lemon brought Klayman back a few moments later to give him the last word and show “we’re going to be the bigger person.”
“The last word is you’re not the bigger people. Don’t kid anybody,” Klayman said. “Let anybody watch this and see that CNN removes you from the screen when it doesn’t like what you think. You know what, you’re not CNN, Don, and Toobin, you’re not CNN. CNN is a reputable organization, but you have not acted in a respectful way, and it’s in fact disgraceful. You’re more like Martin Bashir.”