The decision from showrunners seemed somewhat slipshod at first glance, but any number of the litany of gaffes Lemon left behind could be the reason for his ‘sudden’ departure. The troubled newscaster was moved from primetime to morning news but was still unable to reel in the controversy.
In a statement Monday, CNN claimed it had ‘parted ways’ with Lemon on good terms – though a post from Lemon just minutes before seemed to insinuate the situation had been contentious.
Shortly thereafter, CEO Chris Licht spoke on the Morning host’s nixing, simply writing in a memo to staff: ‘Don will forever be a part of the CNN family… we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years.’ He added: ‘CNN This Morning has been on the air for nearly six months, and we are committed to its success.’
Offered roughly a year after Licht was tapped to replace ousted predecessor Jeff Zucker, the statement shed little light on what actually led to Lemon’s exit but served as confirmation of the latest failed experiment under the ex-Late Show boss’s watch.
Don Lemon said he was left ‘stunned’ by his firing from CNN after more than 17 years – but why exactly was he axed? The decision came a few weeks after he was put paid leave for comments about women, and an array of other on-air incidents that may have played a part in his nixing
What led to Lemon’s unceremonious exit?
Tasked with doing away with opinionated reporting figures like Lemon are known for, Licht was named Zucker’s successor last year, and has since struggled to fill spots left by disgraced staffers like Chris Cuomo, while renewing ‘trust in the news media.’
In the past year, Lemon – even after moving to The Morning from his longheld 10-midnight slot in October – has seemingly put that mission in jeopardy, with his firing coming weeks after he was put paid leave for offensive comments about women.
The incident spurred an on-air apology to Lemon, whose comments saw co-anchors Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins walk off the set, and came on the heels an array of embarrassing incidents that may have played a part in his dismissal.
They included a string of sexist slurs, an interview in which he insulted an alleged rape victim, and wild comments about Hitler and the Nazis.
But still, on Monday Morning as the news world was already shaken up by Tucker Carlson’s ouster, Lemon said he was ‘stunned’ after learning of the separation from his agent.
‘I would have thought that someone in management would have had the decency to tell me directly,’ the social media post announcing his firing read.
‘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,’ he added.
The statement made no reference to how he was put on paid leave due to his February remarks, which saw him suggest to his female coworkers that GOP candidate Haley, 51, should tread lightly when pushing a proposal that politicians aged 75 and up should face competency tests.
His reasoning behind the remark, offered to his outraged coanchors, was because ‘a woman is in their prime in their 20s and 30s and maybe 40s’, including Haley. The politician was among those celebrate Lemon’s nixing Monday.
In a statement Monday, CNN claimed it had ‘parted ways’ with Lemon on good terms
However, in a post from Lemon just six minutes later, the anchor – who was moved to the Morning last year before seemed to insinuate the situation had been contentious.
Were his remarks about Haley the final straw?
‘She says people, you know, politicians are suddenly not in their prime,’ Lemon – who at 56 is five years Haley’s senior – said of Haley’s proposal, in comments that were not only critical of elderly politicians, but women as well.
‘Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime. Sorry, when a woman is in their prime in 20s and 30s and maybe 40s,’ he went on to declare.
Harlow, 40, quickly interjected, and voiced her outrage.
‘What are you talking about?’ Lemon’s then-new, and now-old, co-host asked. ‘Prime for what?’
Lemon, still defending his comments, would attempt to explain: ‘It’s just like, prime. If you look it up. If you Google “What is a woman in her prime’ it’ll say 20s, 30s, 40s.”
‘I’m not saying I agree with that… I think she has to be careful about saying that, you know, politicians are in their prime.’
Harlow, however, remained unconvinced, and continued to tear into Lemon’s remarks.
‘Are you talking about prime for, like, childbearing? Or are you talking about prime for being president?’ Harlow said, to which Lemon responded: ‘Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just saying what the facts are.’
He added: ‘Google it. Everybody at home, when is a woman in her prime? It says 20s, 30s and 40s.’
The bizarre assertion that the ex-South Carolina Governor wasn’t in her ‘prime’ and should be careful when using that word to judge other politicians immediately appeared to off-put the two women, whom at the time were still adjusting to their new on-air partner.
Spurring an apology from the anchor just hours later, the comments also caused Harlow to take a ‘well-timed’ bathroom break, followed closely by Collins, 31, before the pair came back to finish the show.
The CNN anchor caused noticeable tension on his new set in February when he bashed 51-year-old Nikki Haley’s proposal that politicians aged 75 and up should face competency tests, causing costars Poppy Harlow (left) and Kaitlan Collins (right) to walk off the set
Haley is 51 years old. Lemon, five years older, was forced to apologized after he suggested she was past her prime as a woman – potentially spurring his ouster Monday
Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and a potential presidential candidate, was among those celebrate Lemon’s nixing Monday
After Haley – and much of social media – condemned the comments online, Lemon apologized, claiming that his closest cohorts at the network were all women.
‘I did not mean to hurt anyone. I did not mean to offend anyone,’ the seasoned newscaster said, adding: ‘The people I’m closest to in this organization are women.’
Despite the public apology, Lemon’s words sparked immediate uproar, and forced him to absence himself from the next few shows while quietly put on paid leave by Licht and other brass – before grovelingly apologizing to staff in an emergency conference call.
At the time, he was reportedly reprimanded by new boss Licht, who made Lemon undertake sensitivity training – an undertaking Lemon made no mention of when publicly questioning his firing Monday.
Following that assertion, the network responded in its own statement, claiming that Lemon’s version of events was ‘inaccurate.’
It further claimed Lemon had been ‘offered an opportunity to meet with management but instead released a statement on Twitter.’
The network did not divulge any more details on what preceded the Monday maneuver.
Following that assertion, the network responded in its own statement, claiming that Lemon’s version of events was ‘inaccurate’
What other on-air assertions played a part?
Aside from the February incident, Lemon has also been accused of other instances of sexism and harassment by female coworkers.
A Variety investigation earlier this year unveiled allegations that claimed Lemon tore up the desk of his then co-anchor Kyra Phillips, and sent her threatening texts via an unknown number after she was tapped for an assignment in Iraq that he had wanted.
‘Now you’ve crossed the line, and you’re going to pay for it,’ he reportedly messaged her.