Don Lemon returned as the host of a show for the first time since he was axed from CNN — but it wasn’t a newscast.
On Friday, Lemon hosted the 7th annual Native Son Awards at the IAC building in New York, and reminded the crowd, “I may not be on CNN, but I’m still a journalist.”
Lemon then spoke to the audience of Black gay and queer men about legislative bills targeting the LGBTQ community.
“In 2023, there have already been over 520 anti-LGBTQ+ pieces of legislation introduced in state legislatures across the country,” he said.
“Nearly half of those bills target our transgender and non-binary siblings,” he added.
Lemon also blasted corporations that “lacked the courage to stand up against extremist demands to discriminate against us” that are “removing Pride gear and decorations from their stores.”
“And to think they pair those actions with some type of empty statement claiming they still respect our communities,” he said.
The former cable news host kicked off his speech recalling that he was one of the first Native Son Awards recipients back in 2016. He said that at the time, “I had to run out and get back to work,” because he was hosting his CNN show, “Don Lemon Tonight.”
“I don’t have a job now, so as soon as I’m done here, I’m going to have many drinks and we’re going to celebrate,” he quipped.
Lemon’s former network came up a few times throughout the evening.
Native Son founder Emil Wilbekin said he asked Lemon to host the show around the time he was fired from CNN, and TV and filmmaker Patrik-Ian Polk, who was honored, said, “I don’t watch CNN anymore,” during an acceptance beach.
Lemon blushed when Polk told him he’s a “huge fan… I can’t wait to see what you do next. I will be there with bells on.”
Also among the night’s honorees were Jordan E. Cooper, Chester Algernal Gordon, Elegance Bratton, James Cole Jr., Nicco Annan, Bishop O.C. Allen, Rashad Burgess, Jason Bolden and Adair Curtis were among the honorees.
The awards aim to aim to highlight “the achievements of Black gay and queer men who are leaders in their respective industries.”