Arkansas Man Behind Bars After Dialing CNN Asking for Don Lemon’s ‘Dead Body Hanging from a Tree’

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An Arkansas man was arrested Tuesday after authorities say he made over 40 threatening phone calls to CNN headquarters, some of which included death threats aimed at CNN host and journalist Don Lemon.

Benjamin Craig Matthews, 39, was taken into custody and remains jailed on $15,000 bond, the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday. Matthews is charged with several felony counts of making terrorist threats, along with nine misdemeanor counts of harassing communications and four counts of second-degree terrorist threats.

According to the Baxter Bulletin, Atlanta police contacted Sheriff John Montgomery’s office to report that CNN’s Atlanta headquarters had received a string of threatening phone calls between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2., more than 40 of them coming from the same phone number. Authorities were able to trace the calls to a phone belonging to Matthews.

Benjamin Craig Matthews
Benjamin Craig Matthews faces 24 years behind bars if convicted on charges related to threatening calls he made to CNN. (Image courtesy of the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office)

Police said Matthews made three calls to CNN on Oct. 31. In one of the calls, he allegedly threatened to beat up Lemon. Matthews called the network again later that day, and was verbally abusive towards an operator. The next day, he dialed CNN six times in a span of just 23 minutes.

During one of the calls, Matthews reportedly asked the operator to help him kill Lemon, then called back later and asked to be directed to Lemon’s “dead body hanging from a tree.”

Lemon, a longtime CNN anchor, has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump and drew the ire of right-wing critics last week after he dubbed white men “the biggest terror threat” in America. His remarks came in response to the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 Jewish Americans dead. The suspect, who died in a gun battle with police, had espoused far-right, anti-Semitic views.

“We’ve to stop demonizing people and realize that the biggest terror threat in this country is white men, most of them radicalized to the right, and we have to start doing something about them,” Lemon told viewers.

On Nov. 2, authorities said Matthews made six more calls to the network in another 23-minute span. In three of those calls, he allegedly asked to be directed to “pipe bombs for Don Lemon.

An investigation by the Baxter County Sheriff’s revealed Matthews had also made calls to U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, Sen. Chuck Schumer, attorney Michael Avenatti, the Washington Speakers Bureau and Planned Parenthood, according to the newspaper.

Lemon has been the target of death threats in the past. This week, a Manhattan District  Attorney declined to prosecute a self-proclaimed white nationalist who sent a number of antagonizing messages to Lemon via Twitter last October. The DA’s office said it decided the prosecution simply wasn’t worth it, as the suspect would’ve spent less than a year in jail for his crimes.

The latest threats aimed at the Black journalist come just a month after CNN’s New York headquarters received a pipe bomb in the mail from a radical Trump supporter dubbed the “MAGAbomber.”

As for Matthews, he faces a total of 24 years behind bars if convicted.

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