CNN anchor Don Lemon fondled himself before assaulting a Hamptons bartender in a Sag Harbor tavern last year, according to a lawsuit filed in Suffolk County Supreme Court.
Dustin Hice, of Florida, a former bartender at the Old Stove Pub in Sagaponack, said in court papers filed Sunday that he was humiliated and traumatized by the “unprovoked” July 2018 attack by Lemon.
In a statement, a CNN spokesman said Lemon, 53, denied the allegations, adding that Hice had tried to shake down the anchor in the past.
“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.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
A source close to Hice and his attorney, Andrew Miltenberg of Manhattan, said there had been settlement discussions before the filing of the lawsuit and Lemon’s representatives had offered Hice a six-figure payout.
“The assertion that Mr. Hice would put himself through the painful process of filing a sexual assault lawsuit against his attacker all because he doesn’t like a cable TV station is ludicrous,” Miltenberg said in a statement. “It's shameful that the CNN attack machine is resorting to victim-blaming in order to detract from Mr. Lemon's gross sexual misconduct."
The lawsuit said Hice had worked last summer as a bartender at the Sagaponack tavern. Hice had gone to Murf’s Backstreet Tavern in Sag Harbor for drinks with Old Stove co-workers one night in July 2018 when he spotted Lemon at the bar.
Hice offered to buy the anchor a vodka cocktail known as a "Lemon Drop." Lemon declined and Hice, the lawsuit said, returned to his group.
Lemon approached Hice later that night and made physical sexual gestures and comments “with aggression and hostility” directed at Hice, the lawsuit said.
Hice said he was so traumatized by the experience, according to the lawsuit, that he had to leave the bar for five or 10 minutes. When he returned to Murf’s, Lemon was gone.
The lawsuit said the incident became a running joke in the Hamptons, making it difficult for Hice to work in the area.