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The rise of CNN’s Don Lemon

Inauguration helps make anchor a celebrity

Change has indeed come.

It’s been a remarkable sight as America has beheld that charismatic fortysomething black man with the 100-watt smile — you know, the one who made his name in rough-and-tumble Chicago before rising to national prominence during the Bush administration. It’s gotten to the point where you can barely turn on the news without seeing his beaming visage.

No, not him.

We’re talking about rising CNN star Don Lemon, who’s been damned-near ubiquitous of late, especially during the net’s Inauguration-related coverage, which included graphics directing viewers to Lemon’s Facebook page (his authorized page, as opposed to the “I Want to Marry Don Lemon” and “Don Lemon Is the Shit” fan groups). He can also be found at LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter and as a contributor to the cabler’s “Black in America” blog.

“We think the world of Don,” says Bart Feder, senior VP of current programming for CNN/U.S. “There’s no question that he has a following, and he has a lot of perspective to bring to the table.”

Feder admits that Lemon’s being young, handsome and African-American in the age of Obama is also part of what he brings.

“One of the goals of the network has been to have many different voices and true diversity of thought,” he says. “And adding Don to a panel adds to that, and that’s a good thing.”

Larry King would agree. On his evening CNN yakker on Jan. 21, the suspendered one told Bob Woodward, “Black is in.”

Feder confesses with a laugh, “Well, if Larry said it, you just go with whatever Larry says.”

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