Don Lemon Is Out at CNN Following Controversial Comments

It’s rare enough to see the downfall of one A-list cable news personality on a given day, let alone two—but the media world witnessed just such a unicorn on Monday. We’d only just begun to digest Tucker Carlson’s jaw-dropping breakup with Fox News when Twitter started lighting up with reactions to yet another major departure: Don Lemon’s from CNN. “I was informed this morning by my agent that I have been terminated by CNN. I am stunned,” Lemon, who cohosts the embattled CNN This Morning, said in a statement on Twitter, which you can read in full below:

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The New York Times, which had a jump on the news, pinned Lemon’s firing on the obvious culprit: his disparaging remarks a few weeks ago regarding Nikki Haley and women and the age at which they are “past their prime.” The comments thrust CNN into a public relations crisis and made it all the way to the Oscars, where Michelle Yeoh took a none-too-subtle dig at Lemon in her acceptance speech. As the Times reports, “CNN’s bookers had discovered that some guests did not want to appear on-air with Mr. Lemon, and research on the morning show reviewed by CNN executives found that his popularity with audiences had fallen.” Just a couple days ago, the New York Post reported that White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre agreed to appear on CNN This Morning only if Lemon was not the one to interview her. (CNN and the White House both poured a bit of cold water on the report, but it would seem to track.)

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Sources who know how things went down told me it all played out within the last 48 hours, which is the timeframe when Lemon’s cohosts, Kaitlin Collins and Poppy Harlow, were informed of the decision. Lemon was given an opportunity to speak with network boss Chris Licht on Monday morning but declined, my sources said. (CNN’s comms team subsequently tweeted as much.) The sources added that CNN wanted to go public in a joint message, but Lemon preempted that with his tweet.

Lemon—a long-serving CNN figure who broke out in a big way while hosting a fiery prime time show during the Trump presidency—had been moved to the breakfast shift last year as part of Licht’s revamped programming strategy, of which the morning was a key ingredient. The show has been slow to build up an audience, however, while also getting distracted by tabloid dramas, including reports of Lemon clashing with his cohosts behind the scenes. 


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