U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Arkansas man arrested after threatening to kill CNN anchor Don Lemon

Incident Details

November 6, 2018

On Nov. 6, 2018, the Baxter County Sheriff's Office in Arkansas arrested 39-year-old Benjamin Craig Matthews for allegedly making "terroristic threats" toward CNN employees. According to a police report, Matthews is suspected of making more than 40 threatening phone calls to CNN headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2, 2018.

In an affidavit, Sgt. Brad Hurst of the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office wrote that many of Matthews threats targeted CNN anchor Don Lemon, who is referred to as "DL" in the affidavit. In one phone call, Matthews allegedly said, "could I be directed to DL's dead body hanging from a tree?" In another call, he allegedly asked, "is DL dead yet, can you help me kill that [redacted]?"

According to Hurst, CNN was not Matthews’ only target.

"He has made calls to MSNBC, US Representative Maxine Waters, US Senator Chuck Schumer, Attorney Michael Avenatti, Washington Speakers Bureau, and Planned Parenthood, suggesting a pattern of harassment towards certain political affiliations," Hurst wrote in the affidavit.

On Nov. 10, 2018, Matthews was released on $15,000 bail. He faces 18 counts of terroristic threatening and harassing communications, including five Class D felonies, each of which are punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

On Nov. 15, Matthews pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].