CNN This Morning Adds 2 New Executive Producers in Show Shakeup

By A.J. Katz 

CNN has hired two executive producers for CNN This Morning, in the hope they can help jumpstart the morning show co-hosted by Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins.

Lauren Mensch is joining Chris Russell as the show’s new co-ep’s.

THR broke the news Monday morning.

Mensch will lead the show’s editorial direction and lead the team in the control room during the 6-9 a.m. hours. Russell, meanwhile, will lead production during the dayside and evening hours to set the show up for the following morning.

“In just over four months, CNN This Morning has become a destination for top newsmakers and is well positioned to grow under the leadership of Lauren and Chris, who bring years of experience producing exciting and relevant morning television,” said CNN svp of content strategy Ryan Kadro said in a statement. “With the recent additions of broadcast producers Carolyn Cremen and Rachid Haoues to our talented senior staff, we’re building a dynamic team to help the show evolve and succeed heading into a major election news cycle.”

Russell and Mensch will replace Eric Hall, CNN This Morning’s launch ep who is moving to the 11 p.m. hour, soon to be anchored on a permanent basis by by Laura Coates.

Mensch, a CNN vet, most recently ran the weekday 2-4 p.m. ET edition of CNN Newsroom with Alisyn Camerota and Victor Blackwell. Additionally, she executive produced the Emmy-nominated CNN/Sesame Street Town Halls during the early days of the Covid pandemic, aimed at helping kids and families understand complicated news issues of the day. She was also the executive producer of now-defunct CNN weekly primetime shows The Van Jones Show and The Axe Files. Mensch joined CNN in 2013 as senior producer for New Day.

Russell, on the other hand, comes from the outside, most recently having served as the ep of Leland Vittert’s 7 p.m. program on NewsNation.

CNN chairman and CEO Chris Licht and the aforementioned Kadro are both familiar with Russell, having worked with him on CBS This Morning (now known as CBS Mornings) from 2011-2014 when Russell was the show’s supervising producer. Licht launched the program back in 2011, and Kadro succeeded Licht as its executive producer in 2016.

CNN This Morning launched in November 2022, right before the midterm elections.

When taking into account the HLN simulcast (CNN canceled HLN’s Morning Express with Robin Meade last year), CNN This Morning is up in viewership from what its predecessor New Day was averaging in the same time period last year. However, the program is shedding CNN-only viewers, and is currently sitting in a distant third place–both in total viewers and A25-54–behind Fox & Friends and Morning Joe.

It has experienced non-Nielsen ratings drama since launching this past November as well. There have been reports of off-air disagreements between the host trio, and Lemon recently made derogatory comments about Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley.

“Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime, sorry,” said Lemon. “A woman is considered to be in their prime in 20s and 30s and maybe 40s. If you Google ‘when is a woman in her prime,’ it’ll say 20s, 30s and 40s.”

The comment drew widespread criticism.

Lemon apologized multiple times for the remark, doing so via his social media platforms and to his CNN colleagues on an internal call as well.

He ultimately returned to the program the following week after “a frank and meaningful conversation,” with Licht. “He has agreed to participate in formal training, as well as continuing to listen and learn. We take this situation very seriously,” Licht wrote in a memo to employees.