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CNN’s Don Lemon suggests skin color and ‘privilege’ can account for Laundrie family not talking to police

CNN anchor Don Lemon suggested Monday the skin color of Brian Laundrie, fiancé to Gabby Petito, awarded him the “privilege” of not talking to police during the investigation into her disappearance and possible death.

Petito’s case has captured the country since she went missing earlier this month. Authorities found a body Sunday in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park believed to be the missing young woman, while the current whereabouts of Laundrie, who has been named a person of interest in the case, remain unknown. The discovered body will undergo an autopsy Tuesday.

Laundrie’s family members were instructed by their attorney not to talk to the authorities, which Lemon chalked up to “privilege.”

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“You ask any person of color, you ask a Black man who – if they have that sort of privilege,” Lemon said Monday night.

“It’s not privilege, it’s a right,” CNN’s Chris Cuomo said, pushing back. He added that any defense attorney would advise their client not to talk to the police because they can use whatever they say against them.

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Lemon argued that while cops are the good guys in many cases, they “aren’t” in many more instances. He painted a picture of what he believed often transpired behind closed doors when police take Black people and poor people into custody, as many, he said aren’t able to afford a lawyer.

“Do you think like someone who, a Don Lemon, if I wasn’t who I am, they’d be like, ‘Hey, get your butt in here! What do you know about the disappearance of such and such? Why won’t you talk? Do you need a lawyer because you’re guilty?’ All of that would go down,” Lemon said of the police’s behavior.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid also evoked race in her analysis of Petito’s disappearance, referring Monday to the media coverage of her case as “Missing White woman syndrome.”

“It goes without saying that no family should ever have to endure that kind of pain. And the Petito family certainly deserves answers and justice,” Reid said on “The ReidOut” Monday night. “But the way this story has captivated the nation has many wondering, why not the same media attention when people of color go missing?”

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Lemon raised a similar point, noting to viewers that while he is out in New York City, several people, most of whom were White, have asked him why the networks were spending so much time covering a missing White girl and not other missing young women. The anchor said critics were wrong to accuse him of making the case about race.

“People are talking to me about this as it relates to race,” Lemon said. “They’ve spoken to Chris about it. You see it online. Don’t pretend that I’m turning this into something that it’s not.” 

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