A former New York bartender has filed suit against Don Lemon, alleging that the CNN anchor, formerly of NBC10, assaulted him at a bar in the Hamptons last summer.
The suit, filed Sunday in the New York Supreme Court, alleges Lemon physically and verbally attacked bartender Dustin Hice at Murf’s Backstreet Tavern in Sag Harbor on July 15, 2018.
A spokesperson for CNN denied the allegations in a statement, according to People, saying that Hice had previously attacked the network via social media, and that he had attempted to extort Lemon in the past. A source told Mediaite that Hice previously had demanded $1.5 million from Lemon to not file the suit.
“The plaintiff in this lawsuit has previously displayed a pattern of contempt for CNN on his social media accounts,” the statement said. “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.”
Hice’s suit alleges that in July last year, the bartender, who worked at the Old Stove Pub in Sagaponack, N.Y., was out at Murf’s with friends when he noticed Lemon at the bar. He offered to buy Lemon a lemon drop cocktail, which the TV personality declined, allegedly saying he was “just trying to have a good time,” the suit claims.
Later, the suit says, Lemon allegedly approached Hice and “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 [Hice’s] mustache and under [Hice’s] nose.” Hice’s suit claims that Lemon did so with “aggression and hostility,” and questioned Hice about his sexuality, prompting Hice to leave the bar in a “shocked and humiliated” state.
According to the suit, word of the alleged encounter spread quickly around the Hamptons, and escalated to the point where locals “who came into The Old Stove … cheekily ordered lemon drops and laughed at [Hice’s] expense.” As a result, the suit says, Hice “found it increasingly difficult to work in the Hamptons” and “lived in fear of running into Mr. Lemon,” ultimately finding “himself unable to return to work in New York over the summer.”
Hice’s attorney has since responded to CNN’s statement, telling The Hill that their client “took down his social media accounts on the day he filed the lawsuit against Don Lemon because he’s a private citizen and wants to protect himself from CNN’s heavy-handed tactics.”