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CNN's Don Lemon says Trump rhetoric responsible for threats against network

President Donald Trump signs actions placing tariffs on imports of washing machines and solar energy cells and panels, at the White House in Washington, Jan. 23, 2018. The imposition of tariffs will most likely exacerbate trade tensions with other nations, including China, and could result in an escalation of retaliatory trade measures. (Doug Mills/The New York Times Copyright 2018)

On Tuesday night, CNN host Don Lemon personally addressed President Donald Trump in an emotional monologue in which he told the president he is partially responsible for recent death threats against the cable news network's staff.

Lemon was reporting on the arrest of Brandon Griesemer of Novi, Michigan, who "made approximately 22 total calls to CNN" on Jan. 9 and 10, threatening its employees, according to an arrest affidavit released on Monday.

"Fake news. I'm coming to gun you all down," Griesemer allegedly said during one call to the network's Atlanta headquarters, according to the affidavit. In another call, he said, "I am on my way right now to gun the f---in' CNN cast down. F--- you."

"There's nothing random about this. Nothing," Lemon said Tuesday. "This is what happens when the president of the United States, Donald Trump, repeatedly attacks members of the press simply for reporting facts he does not like."

He then addressed the president directly.

"I've heard from a number of very credible sources from within the White House that you watch this show," Lemon said. "So, Mr. President, I'm going to speak directly to you."

"The caller who threatened to kill CNN employees made his threat using these words: 'Fake news. I'm coming to gun you all down,'" said Lemon. He then paused before reflecting: "Fake news. I wonder where he got those words."

Trump has tweeted the term "fake news" at least 50 times since his inauguration in 2017. As Lemon noted, Trump tweeted the term "Fake News CNN" early Tuesday morning. News of the threats against CNN became public Monday evening.

As The Washington Post's Kyle Swenson wrote, "The term, trumpeted by the president in his frequent clashes with the press, has become a popular rallying cry among Trump's base. CNN has been a regular target of the president's 'fake news' attacks; the president has also shared violent images featuring the cable news giant, including pictures of the CNN logo crushed under a shoe and a GIF of the president personally attacking the CNN logo."

Last Wednesday, Trump announced the "winners" of what he called the "Highly Anticipated 2017 Fake News Awards," in which CNN was mentioned four times.

Lemon warned the president that "when you make that baseless and incendiary charge, be aware that people are listening to you. Some very dangerous people."

"People take that message seriously," Lemon said. "And if one of us is hurt ... it won't be a fake injury or, sadly, a fake death. It'll be real. And how will you answer those questions then, not only from journalists but from our loved ones? Because you're going to have to do it. Let's hope it doesn't happen. Let's hope you see the error of your ways."

Lemon promised that "no matter how many times you attack us as fake news, we will continue to do our jobs."

Such unprecedented comments from the anchor have become more common in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, Trump called Haiti, El Salvador and African nations "shithole" countries while arguing against protection for immigrants from those countries. That night, Lemon began his show with by saying, "This is CNN Tonight, I'm Don Lemon. The president of the United States is racist. A lot of us already knew that."

Author information: Travis M. Andrews is a reporter for The Washington Post's Morning Mix. Previously he was an editor for Southern Living and a pop culture and tech contributor for Mashable.

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