Openly gay CNN anchor Don Lemon has announced that he’s been fired from his job at the 24-hour news station.
Lemon broke the news on Twitter, saying he was informed of his termination by his agent, and not anybody from CNN.
“I am stunned,” he tweeted. “After 17 years at CNN I would have thought someone in management would have had 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. It is clear that there are some larger issues at play. With that said, I want to thank my colleagues and the many teams I have worked with for an incredible run. They are the most talented journalists in the business, and I wish them all the best.”
— Don Lemon (@donlemon) April 24, 2023
Chris Licht, the CEO of CNN, said that the network and Lemon have “parted ways,” according to a memo posted on CNN’s official communications Twitter account six minutes after Lemon’s tweet went out.
“Don will forever be a part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years,” the statement reads. “We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors.”
Lemon, who was interviewed by Metro Weekly in 2016, was first hired by CNN in 2006, after a stint anchoring at NBC Chicago and working as a correspondent for NBC News, the TODAY show and the daily NBC Nightly News program.
After multiple media outlets quoted Lemon’s tweet, CNN’s communications account issued a follow-up statement accusing Lemon of misrepresenting the facts surrounding his firing.
“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,” the company tweeted.
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
While it’s unclear exactly what circumstances led to the firing, Lemon came under fire two months ago during a segment on CNN This Morning in which he said that Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, 51, was no longer in her “prime.”
He opined that, for a woman, “prime” refers to someone “in her 20s, 30s and maybe her 40s,” as reported by NBC News.
The comments were made while discussing a suggestion by Haley that candidates over the age of 75 should be subjected to mental competency exams — a dig at President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, who is currently vying to be the 2024 presidential nominee for the Republican party.
When challenged about his statements by co-host Poppy Harlow, Lemon replied, “Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just saying what the facts are.”
He brought up the subject an hour later, and was rebutted by commentator Audie Cornish. He later tweeted that he regretted his “inartful and irrelevant” comments.
Those comments were immediately denounced by his employer, by conservatives who saw it as an unfair partisan attack against a Republican candidate, and by many females, including Haley herself, who saw the remarks as “sexist” and “misogynist.”
Lemon was subsequently absent for three days, returning the following week with a tweeted apology but making no reference to his comments on air. Licht told staffers in a memo at the time that Lemon would undergo “formal training” — presumably some form of sensitivity training — but did not say what that would entail, according to The Associated Press.
Lemon had previously hosted the Prime Time show Don Lemon Tonight, but was moved to CNN This Morning last November, along with Harlow and co-host Kaitlan Collins, as one of the first programming changes instituted by Licht since taking control of the company last year.
CNN has struggled with ratings amid all of the changes in its programming lineup, seeing a decline in viewership as it attempts to take a more non-partisan angle on reporting the news, compared to the liberal-leaning MSNBC and conservative Fox News.
Following Lemon’s return to the airwaves, Variety published a story earlier this month covering allegations that Lemon regularly engaged in misogynistic behavior towards female colleagues and staff behind the scenes at CNN for the past decade-and-a-half.
The story also alleged that Lemon used his personal charm to avoid serious consequences for his on-air and off-air behavior.
A spokesperson for Lemon characterized the Variety story as “reckless,” telling NBC News the story “is riddled with patently false anecdotes and no concrete evidence, is entirely based on unsourced, unsubstantiated, 15-year-old anonymous gossip.”
Lemon’s firing comes less than two years after fellow CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was ousted from the network amid accusations that he had sexually assaulted someone when he worked at ABC News, as well as accusations that he may have used media sources to dig up dirt on several women who had accused his brother of sexual harassment.
Andrew Cuomo was later forced to resign from office amid the allegations, while Chris Cuomo — who has since taken a job as host of his own self-titled show on the Nexstar Media Group-owned news channel NewsNation — has filed a yet-unresolved wrongful termination lawsuit against CNN for $125 million.
News of Lemon’s firing also dropped on the same day that Fox News announced it had parted ways with Prime Time host Tucker Carlson, whose show had become very influential in shaping Republican Party politics and was used by some conservatives as a springboard for their political ambitions.
While the exact reason for Carlson’s departure from Fox News’s airwaves remains unknown at this time, some people on social media sought to link Lemon and Carlson’s terminations as evidence of a larger shake-up in media.
Others joked that the two would soon collaborate on a joint project, with one Twitter user quipping, “Can’t wait for Don lemon and tucker Carlson to make a podcast together lol,” while another linked to a TMZ story claiming NewsNation was interested in both media personalities.
Can’t wait for Don lemon and tucker Carlson to make a podcast together lol
— King Arthur the saint slayer (@therealFalcsGM) April 24, 2023
Can’t wait for the Don Lemon/Tucker Carlson frenemies podcast
— julia (@CatFan97) April 24, 2023
Tucker Carlson out at FOX.
Don Lemon out at CNN.
Are we about to get the political version of Undisputed? pic.twitter.com/xx2AJv6OwJ
— Dominic Albera (@AlberaDominic) April 24, 2023
Calling it now: Don Lemon-Tucker Carlson buddy cop show.
— Gary Legum (@GaryLegum) April 24, 2023
NewsNation Interested in Both Don Lemon & Tucker Carlson After Firings https://t.co/KrDbZLpJ8c
— DOI NYC (@DOInyc57) April 24, 2023
Meanwhile, Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips summarized the kerfuffle over the two hosts’ departures succinctly, tweeting, “Eager to read the forthcoming false-equivalency op-eds nationwide regarding Tucker Carlson, fomenter of civil war, and Don Lemon, fomenter of uncivil misogyny.”
Eager to read the forthcoming false-equivalency op-eds nationwide regarding Tucker Carlson, fomenter of civil war, and Don Lemon, fomenter of uncivil misogyny.
— Michael Phillips (@phillipstribune) April 24, 2023
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!