Appearing on CNN's Reliable Sources, CNN anchor Don Lemon emphatically defended the media's extensive coverage of Michael Jackson's death over the last two weeks. He argued that Jackson was an "accidental civil rights leader" and that critics of the coverage were "elitist."
Here's a bit of the transcript:
HOWARD KURTZ: Don't you feel deep down that this is overdoing it?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: No, I don't feel it's overdoing it. And I don't -- and when I hear people say that, I have to be very honest with you, Howie, I think it's elitist. I don't remember -- I'm sure there was some criticism when there was the coverage of Princess Diana's death, but I don't think that there was this sort of criticism that we're having with Michael Jackson.
Michael Jackson is an accidental civil rights leader, an accidental pioneer. He broke ground and barriers in so many different realms in artistry, in pictures, in movies, in music, you name it. So, no, I don't think it's overkill.
KURTZ: Okay. He did all of those things. He also was accused of child molestation, and was a seriously weird person. But he has been dead for more than a week and we are still going almost wall-to-wall.
LEMON: Well, he has been dead for more than a week, yes, but Michael Jackson twice -- well, once, I should say, he was acquitted of child molestation. The other time it was settled out of court.
LEMON: And if you talk to people who were involved in those cases, they don't believe that he did it. So let's put that aside.
The Pew Research Center released findings last week indicating that "nearly two-in-three Americans say news organizations gave too much coverage to the story. At the same time, half say the media struck the right balance between reporting on Jackson's musical legacy and the problems in his personal life."
Blacks followed the death of the African American singer - who had been on the national stage for four decades - more closely than the population as a whole. Eight-in-ten African Americans say they followed news about Jackson's death very closely, compared with 22% of whites. Women followed the story more closely than men (35% very closely compared with 26%). Close to four-in-ten (38%) of those under 40 say they followed the music icon's death very closely, compared with 27% of those between 40 and 64 and 20% of those 65 and older. [...]
About two-thirds of the public (64%) say news organizations gave too much attention to the death of the 50-year-old performer, who had been rehearsing for a major comeback tour. About three-in-ten (29%) say the coverage was the right amount. Only 3% say there had been too little coverage.