One of CNN’s most recognizable hosts, Sag Harbor resident Don Lemon says he’s been unceremoniously fired from the cable news network just about two months after he was criticized for on-air comments he made about Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley.
“CNN and Don have parted ways,” CNN chair Chris Licht said in a memo sent to staff on Monday that was also posted on the network’s communications Twitter account. “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.”
While CNN did not share an explanation for Lemon’s departure or connect it to the Haley comments, the CNN This Morning co-host said it was a firing on his Twitter and that he was not told directly, face to face. He had even appeared on his morning show before being let go on Monday.
“I was informed this morning by my agent that I have been terminated by CNN. I am stunned,” he wrote in a statement posted shortly after noon. “After 17 years at CNN I would have thought that someone in management would have the decency to tell me directly. At no time was I ever given any indication that I would not be able to continue to do the work I have loved at the network.”
Lemon went on to point out that “It’s clear there are some larger issues at play.”
— Don Lemon (@donlemon) April 24, 2023
CNN refutes Lemon’s claims about how he was fired, tweeting on its CNN Communications account at 12:59 p.m. Monday, “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.”
As for the comments many believe were at the root of his firing, Lemon drew the ire of viewers and the internet outrage machine when — during a discussion on CNN This Morning with co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins about the ages of politicians — he suggested that the 51-year-old Haley was not “in her prime.”
A woman, he continued, was considered in her prime “in her 20s, 30s and maybe her 40s.”
Lemon’s cohost Harlow took him to task, interjecting, “I think we need to qualify. Are you talking about prime for childbearing or are you talking about prime for being president?”
“Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just saying what the facts are,” Lemon responded.
Following the fury after the show, Lemon issued a statement saying he regretted his “inartful and irrelevant” comments.
A deft politician, Haley grabbed the opportunity to fundraise, publicly calling out Lemon for his “sexist” comments.
The anchor was absent from CNN This Morning for the next three days. He tweeted an apology but but said nothing about it on-air when he returned to work.
Licht told staffers in a memo at the time that Lemon would undergo “formal training,” but did not specify what that would entail. Licht added that it was important to him that the network “balances accountability with … fostering a culture in which people can own, learn and grow from their mistakes.”
Far less significant on-aire incidents followed the Haley kerfuffle, including a hot-mic comment saying Jon Stewart “gets a lot of leeway with the comedian thing,” after Stewart admonished US Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks about a failure to support military rank and file in spite of an $850 billion budget.
Then, on April 19, Lemon earned more press for a heated on-air clash with Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy over what he saw as the guest’s assertion that the Civil War was fought for Black People to have guns. Ramaswamy said the Second Amendment made it possible for Black Americans to enjoy the other freedoms they have today, and an agitated Lemon responded that “Black people still aren’t allowed to enjoy the freedoms.”
An argument followed where Lemon said his Indian guest could not have a valid opinion on the matter. “When you are in Black skin and you live in this country, then you can disagree with me, but we’re not,” Lemon said.
This latest verbal spar earned Lemon another round of articles from various media outlets, perhaps adding another log to his professional funeral pyre — though one might argue that the anchor’s outspoken personality is exactly what helped him become so popular in the first place.
-With Associated Press