Monday, April 24, 2023, is a landmark day in the cable news business, and not in a positive sense.
CNN announced Monday that it is parting ways with Don Lemon, one of the network’s longest-tenured and most recognizable on-air personalities.
The network’s CEO Chris Licht released the following statement on Monday in regard to Lemon’s exit:
“CNN and Don have parted ways. Don will forever be a part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years. We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors.”
Don Lemon OUT at CNN. Here is the note from Chris Licht. pic.twitter.com/9zfcaXwQ5s
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) April 24, 2023
Lemon appeared on CNN This Morning—the show he has co-hosted with Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins since its November 2022 launch—as normal on Monday.
No one saw this coming, at least not today.
Lemon put out the statement below, not mincing any words:
— Don Lemon (@donlemon) April 24, 2023
CNN’s PR department pushed back on Lemon’s statement, per below.
Don Lemon’s statement about this morning’s events is inaccurate. He was offered an opportunity to meet with management but instead released a statement on Twitter.
— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) April 24, 2023
Prior to joining CNN This Morning, Lemon had an eight-year run as a primetime host on CNN, beginning in April 2014. His show, originally named CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, debuted one month after being given the CNN 10 p.m. timeslot in response to his high-profile coverage of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappearance saga. A network fixture, Lemon started at CNN in September 2006 after serving as a co-anchor for the 5 p.m. newscast for NBC5 News in Chicago.
Back to the present: What caused the exit?
Well, for one, Nielsen ratings for CNN This Morning have been poor since its launch. Two, and what’s probably the most likely cause for the exit, Lemon faced uproar after making misogynistic remarks on CNN This Morning towards 2024 Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley in March, stating that she was not in her prime and claimed that a woman is “considered to be in their prime in their 20s, 30s and maybe 40s.”
In addition to the suspension, Lemon promised to undergo subsequent rehabilitation, which Licht mandated. Lemon also issued an apology on Twitter, where he said he was sorry to the network, his CNN colleagues and the CNN audience, pledging to listen, learn and commit to doing better.
Then, there was a report from Variety’s Tatiana Siegel published earlier this month, where she says that Lemon’s poor behavior at CNN can be traced back to when he joined the network as an Atlanta-based co-anchor of CNN Newsroom in 2006.
In response to that report, which outlines negative dealings with former CNN anchors Kyra Phillips and Soledad O’Brien, among other women at the network, CNN said, “The story, which is riddled with patently false anecdotes and no concrete evidence, is entirely based on unsourced, unsubstantiated, 15-year-old anonymous gossip. It’s amazing and disappointing that Variety would be so reckless.”
The news of Lemon’s exit comes less than an hour after Fox News announced it was parting ways with its most popular personality, Tucker Carlson. Cable news’ most-watched host is exiting Fox after that network settled a $787.5 million lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems.