Metro Weekly

Don Lemon to be Paid $24.5 Million by CNN to Settle Firing

Don Lemon, set to launch his own news show on X, has reached a multi-million dollar separation deal with former employer CNN.

cnn, don lemon
Don Lemon — Photo: Fuzheado / Wiki Commons

Don Lemon, the gay former host of “CNN This Morning,” has reached a settlement with the network after he was unceremoniously removed from his position following controversial on-air comments.

According to TheWrap, the 57-year-old Lemon has agreed to a separation deal for approximately $24.5 million, the equivalent he would have earned for serving out the remainder of his final contract, which was set to expire three-and-a-half years after he was pulled from the airwaves.

In April 2023, Lemon, who was featured on Metro Weekly’s cover in 2016, announced on X that he had learned from his agent — and not from the network, for which he had worked for 17 years — that he had been terminated

He said he was never given any indication that the network was considering letting him go. He wrote that “[i]t is clear that there are some larger issues at play.”

Lemon’s dismissal came after he made a controversial comment suggesting that Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, who is 51, was past her prime, in response to her assertion that political candidates over the age of 75 should be subjected to mental competency exams.

“Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime, sorry,” Lemon said, eliciting shock and surprise from his co-hosts Caitlin Collins and Poppy Harlow, who pushed back against his assertion. “When a woman is considered to be in her prime — in her 20s, 30s and maybe her 40s.”

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 also sparked accusations of sexism and misogyny from conservatives, who accused him of engaging in a partisan attack against a Republican, and from Haley herself. 

“Liberals can’t stand the idea of having competency tests for older politicians to make sure they can do the job,” Haley tweeted. “BTW it’s always the liberals who are the most sexist.”

Lemon did not appear on air for three days following the comments, with then-CNN CEO Chris Licht telling staffers in a memo that Lemon would undergo “formal training” — presumably some form of sensitivity training — before returning to the air. He later returned to the airwaves, only to later learn of his termination secondhand.

Lemon later told journalist Kara Swisher that it soon became obvious that CNN’s strategy for gaining more viewers — after struggling with poor ratings, especially when compared to more partisan outlets like the liberal-leaning MSNBC and conservative Fox News — and the changes the network sought to make in terms of its content did not include him. 

According to TheWrap, Lemon is preparing to launch a new show on X — “The Don Lemon Show” — which he claimed in a posting will allow him to be “bigger, bolder, freer.” He echoed talking points made by X CEO Elon Musk touting the online platform as “the biggest space for free speech in the world.”

His new show “will be available to everyone, easily, whenever and wherever you want it, streaming on the platforms where conversations are happening,” he said, adding that followers should “stay tuned.”

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