Lemon, a top personality at the network, was sued this week by Dustin Hice, who claims Lemon assaulted him in July 2018.
George Gounelas, a manager at Hice’s workplace at the time, said he saw Lemon, who is openly gay, assault Hice in a bizarre sexually charged way.
Gounelas and Hice worked together at Old Stove Pub and the incident allegedly happened at Murf’s Backstreet Tavern.
“Dustin worked for me as a bartender [and] we went out after work one night. We were standing there and he said, ‘Hey, that’s Don Lemon,’” Gounelas told Fox News.
“Murf’s is a place you go to drink after you’ve been out drinking. We had just gotten off of work. So that’s why we ended up there, because we worked in the restaurant business. So by the time everything is done, we can only hit a late-night spot.”
Hice said in the suit that he approached Lemon and offered to buy the TV personality a drink. Lemon declined.
Lemon allegedly approached Hice later that night and assaulted him sexually “with aggression and hostility.” Hice said he asked Lemon for $1.5 million and when the anchor declined, Hice sued. He said he was “shocked and humiliated” over what Lemon allegedly did, and “fled the bar.” He said he was “emotionally devastated” and that the incident was talked about for some time after it happened.
Gounelas said that he was present when Lemon approached Hice.
“Don Lemon has now come around the corner and is standing face to face with us. There is a beam, a pole, in the place. Don’s standing up against the pole, face to face with Dustin, I turn around and I’m standing right there between the two of them,” Gounelas told Fox. “He’s saying, ‘So you like me? Is that why you’re bothering me?’”
Hice said he just wanted ask Lemon “what’s up.” Lemon, who Gounelas said was “pretty drunk,” allegedly continued his aggressive stance.
Gounelas described an explicit gesture Lemon made before the anchor assaulted Hice while Hice’s boss watched.
Gounelas said his initial reaction was to mock Hice and laugh about it but Hice was not laughing.
Witness corroborates Don Lemon sexual assault claims https://t.co/E42glp9ON3
— J. Arthur Bloom (@j_arthur_bloom) August 16, 2019
“Dustin was in this shock mode saying, ‘Bro, did that just happen? That was disgusting,’” Gounelas said. “The whole thing is like, I go out in the Hamptons, I live out here, I have a restaurant, I get it, people get crazy. To me, it was just another thing. To [Dustin], he was like shocked.”
Gounelas said he made fun of Hice throughout the summer about the incident, which he now regrets.
“It was a known thing in the Hamptons, not like this quiet thing. Everybody knew Dustin and what happened to him,” Gounelas said. “Every time we went out, every bartender offered him a Lemon drop shot, making fun of him. He got some [expletive] for it.”
CNN has denied the allegations, standing by its anchor.
“The plaintiff in this lawsuit has previously displayed a pattern of contempt for CNN on his social media accounts,” a CNN spokesperson told Mediaite in a statement. “This claim follows his unsuccessful threats and demands for an exorbitant amount of money from Don Lemon. Don categorically denies these claims and this matter does not merit any further comment at this time.”
Two other personalities at the network, which which has seen declining ratings in recent years and continues to finish well behind rivals MSNBC and Fox, have been involved in serious snafus recently. April Ryan was captured on video appearing to direct her bodyguard to seize a journalist’s camera. Footage later showed the bodyguard assault the journalist.
Chris Cuomo was captured on camera unleashing an expletive-riddled threat against a man who called him “Fredo.”
CNN hasn’t commented on the Ryan situation but said it stood by Cuomo, claiming “Fredo” is an ethnic slur.