A lawsuit brought by bartender Dustin Hice alleging CNN anchor Don Lemon inappropriately touched him in a sexually charged assault more than three years ago is expected to make it to a courtroom early next year, according to a Fox News report.
It is the latest such headache for the network, as last week veteran television news producer Shelley Ross accused CNN host Chris Cuomo of sexually harassing her in 2005 when both worked for ABC News. The host of “Cuomo Prime Time” apologized at the time, according to Shelley, and reiterated his apology to The New York Times last week.
The assault and battery suit against Lemon, 55, who is openly gay, hasn’t made it before a judge due to a lengthy discovery process and the coronavirus pandemic, but Hice’s legal team told Fox News Digital it expects the suit to end up in court around January 2022.
Hice, 40, claims Lemon, anchor of “CNN Tonight,” rubbed his own genitals and then put his fingers into Hice’s face at Murf’s Backstreet Tavern in Sag Harbor, New York, in July 2018.
“At such time, Mr. Lemon, who was wearing a pair of shorts, sandals, and a t-shirt, put his hand down the front of his own shorts, and vigorously rubbed his genitalia, removed his hand and shoved his index and middle fingers into Plaintiff’s moustache under Plaintiff’s nose,” the complaint, filed in Suffolk County Court on Aug. 11, 2019, stated.
“Mr. Lemon intensely pushed his fingers against Plaintiff’s face under Plaintiff’s nose, forcing Plaintiff’s head to thrust backward as Defendant repeatedly asked Plaintiff ‘Do you like p**** or d***?’ While saying this, Mr. Lemon continued to shove his fingers into Plaintiff’s face with aggression and hostility.”
“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 said at the time.
After Lemon allegedly refused Hice’s attempt to get his attention and buy him a drink, Lemon approached Hice and Gounelas sometime later.
“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 said, noting the alleged incident occurred shortly after.
The complaint went on to note Hice stepped outside the bar after being “emotionally devasted by Mr. Lemon’s demeaning unprovoked and offensive assault. Plaintiff and Mr. Gounelas remained outside for approximately 5 to 10 minutes before Plaintiff was able to collect himself and return to Murf’s,” as the incident left Hice “shocked and humiliated.”
According to Hice, a proposed six-figure payment was offered by Lemon before talks broke down, resulting in the lodging of the formal complaint, the Daily Mail reported.
For his part, Lemon has been adamant he did nothing wrong.
On June 3, 2020, Lemon’s attorney, Caroline Polisi, wrote in a court document that her client is “often subjected to racist and homophobic harassment” and “strangers” often approach him in public, at “times intrusively and repeatedly,” as reported last year by Fox News.
She called Hice’s allegations “speculative, hypothetical, unsupported by any reasonably methodology” and “not cognizable as a matter of law.”
“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 2019.
“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.”
An Instagram post from January 2017 allegedly posted by Hice and obtained by the news website showed him posing in front of CNN’s Atlanta headquarters with the caption, “touring the #CNN center today … or as #Trump would say ‘the home of Fake News’ lol.”
The allegations against Lemon and Cuomo follow on the heels of CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin returning to the network this summer, eight months after being suspended for exposing himself during a Zoom call with colleagues at The New Yorker, where he also worked.
The magazine fired him over the incident.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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