CNN's Don Lemon Apologizes After Telling Bill Cosby Accuser How to Avoid Rape

"You know, there are ways not to perform oral sex if you didn't want to do it," Lemon said in the controversial interview

Photo: CNN

CNN’s Don Lemon is under fire for his handling of an interview with a woman accusing Bill Cosby of rape.

Former actress Joan Tarshis, the latest woman to say the comedian sexually assaulted her, appeared on CNN for the second time Tuesday night to tell her story.

But the interview took a turn for the worse when Lemon suggested that she could have used her teeth to avoid performing oral sex on Cosby, a remark that Tarshis tells PEOPLE made her “flustered.”

“You know, there are ways not to perform oral sex if you didn’t want to do it,” he said.

“I was kind of stoned at the time, and quite honestly, that didn’t even enter my mind,” countered Tarshis, who was 19 at the time the alleged incident took place in 1969 and has claimed Cosby gave her drinks before it happened. “Now I wish it would have.”

Lemon answered: “Right. Meaning the using of the teeth, right?”

But the awkward line of questioning didn’t end there, with Lemon continuing to prod Tarshis for details.

“I didn’t even think of it,” Tarshis said.

“Biting,” Lemon clarified, adding, “I had to ask.”

“No, it didn’t cross my mind,” she said.

The line of questioning has inspired the hashtag #DonLemonReporting on Twitter, which rapidly became a trending topic. Watch the controversial interview below:

Tarshis tells PEOPLE that she wasn’t offended by Lemon’s questions, though she admits it threw her off for the rest of the interview.

“I was kinda shocked,” she says. “And then a part of me thought, ‘Damn, why didn’t I think of that?’ ”

Adds Tarshis: “I was just so surprised because at first because I didn’t know what he meant when he said, ‘There are other ways of dealing with this.’ … I became flustered.”

On Wednesday, Lemon apologized for his comments on CNN.

“As I am a victim myself I would never want to suggest that any victim could have prevented a rape,” he said. “If my question to her struck anyone as insensitive, I am sorry as that is certainly and was not my intention.”

Lemon was sexually abused by a friend of his mother’s as a child, he revealed in his 2011 memoir Transparent.

He is becoming an increasingly controversial anchor for CNN, making a number of outrageous statements in his reporting, such as suggesting that “supernatural forces” were responsible for the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Tarshis says she will return to CNN later Wednesday for another interview with Lemon.

“I want to see what he has to say,” she explains.

Model Janice Dickinson recently accused Cosby of rape as well in a new interview.

For his part, Cosby has refuted Dickinson’s claims through his lawyer but refused to address the other allegations.

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