In preview clips for Monday's upcoming episode of "Red Table Talk," the CNN anchor spoke about calling the "Empire" star immediately after he heard about the incident, where Smollett was allegedly beaten up in a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago.
"My initial reaction was sadness," Lemon told the table. "I wasn't shocked. I didn't like that it happened to him. I called him because we have mutual friends."
"I talked to Jussie for a minute and he said, 'I gotta go, the doctors here' and it just made me sad," he continued. "Everyone talks about, 'Well, this happened and that happened.' My concern is for him."
"Everyone was like, 'Don Lemon is going after Kevin Hart.' I wasn't going after Kevin Hart," Lemon explained. "I wanted Kevin to understand and to hear from people who look like me. It doesn't mean Kevin has to go around carrying a rainbow flag marching in a parade. That's not his prerogative, he doesn't have to do that."
"He's apologized," he added. "We should accept it. We can't bully him into doing or being someone he doesn't want to be or whatever and I think we need to move on and let Kevin be Kevin right?"
The special edition of "Red Table Talk" airs Monday on Facebook Watch.