I think this is a classic of inter-show banter. Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo had an 8-minute long argument about whether or not former President Obama should have been willing to shake hands with President Trump at George H.W. Bush’s funeral Wednesday. Lemon took the position that Obama (and wife Michelle Obama) should have snubbed the president while Cuomo argued that there was value in showing respect for the office.

Maybe this argument was worth 8 minutes of airtime if you had a number of interesting guests on to offer historical comparisons, but in this case this mostly comes down to Don Lemon arguing for the value of being petty.

“I don’t think I would have shaken hands with him, I would just—nope couldn’t do it,” Lemon said. He added, “I’m not that big a person.” “I can’t fake the funk, as they say,” Lemon said.

“I think it’s about showing respect for something bigger than them,” Cuomo replied.

Lemon then called over a producer to demonstrate how he would have snubbed President Trump.

“You’re petty and small,” Cuomo said.

“Not petty and small, that’s real brother,” Lemon said.

“Real petty and small,” Cuomo snapped.

As Lemon continued to argue the point, Cuomo offered to send him a poem. We never got to hear the poem but Cuomo did say, “You know, there is a beauty to life that sometimes transcends what’s obvious and angry in the moment.”

That was actually a pretty solid point and it took a moment for Lemon to think of a response: “The Obamas are beautiful people.”

As Cuomo argued that shaking hands with Trump showed that, Lemon doubled down, “That’s why he’s president and I’m not. Just call me Petty McPetty.”

And if you can believe it, that’s less than half of this masterclass in on-air banter. I won’t bore you with the rest but suffice it to say that by the 8-minute mark, the two hosts seem a bit annoyed with each other. At one point Lemon told Cuomo, “Go on, keep making my point.” Cuomo replied, “I am, I’m not like you. I’m not one-sided in conversation.”


Besides the awkward aspect of this, the discussion seems like a microcosm of the two approaches the media at large has settled into with regard to President Trump. Both sides don’t like him but one side has decided he deserves whatever Petty McPetty snubs they can dish out on a daily basis. For much of the media, petty is now a virtue. The other side is still making an effort, albeit poorly, to show some pretense of objectivity. It’s not terribly convincing in most cases, but it’s something.

It’s the difference between Jim Acosta and any of the less bombastic members of the White House Press Corps who try to do their jobs without making it into resistance theater. But of course, Jim Acosta gets a lot of attention for his theatrics. No doubt there’s an audience out there who will clap Don Lemon on the back for promising he would be petty to the president if he were given the chance. As Lemon says at one point, “I know a lot of people are going to agree with me.”