Why was Don Lemon fired from CNN?

At CNN, long-time morning host Don Lemon’s tenure came to an abrupt end after 17 years

John Bowden
Washington DC
Wednesday 26 April 2023 20:18 BST
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Morning host Don Lemon’s tenure came to a sudden end at CNN on Monday 24 April, despite his years as the face of the network’s New Year’s Eve celebration coverage.

While the reasoning isn’t yet totally clear, one thing is certain: his exit from CNN was involuntary.

The longtime host revealed in a tweeted statement that he had been fired, with company management declining to inform him personally; CNN has not commented on the reasoning publicly either.

In his statement, Lemon wrote that he was “stunned” to learn of his termination and thanked his colleagues at the network for an “incredible run”. Shortly after his tweet, Lemon’s face and name had been scrubbed from the list of anchors and hosts on CNN’s website.

The ex-CNN host didn’t speculate on the exact reason for his firing, while only suggesting that there were “larger issues at play”.

But his ouster and preceding suspension came in the aftermath of comments he made on-air about Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and current candidate for the 2024 GOP nomination.

Describing the ex-UN ambassador under Donald Trump as “past her prime”, the former CNN host suggested that Republican voters would not latch on to the theme of “new leadership in Washington” which Ms Haley’s campaign has promoted as her run for the White House began.

Lemon also had a contentious exchange on the issues of race and gun control with Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy in recent days, during which he could be seen telling off his producers for interrupting him; the entire exchange reportedly caused consternations with CNN’s leadership.

Insiders told The New York Times that the incident left “several CNN leaders exasperated”.

Earlier this month, Lemon was also accused of mistreating multiple female colleagues throughout his career at CNN.

Multiple current or former employees told Variety about instances where the popular host had been inappropriate towards his female coworkers including Nancy Grace, Soledad O’Brien and Kyra Phillips, his former co-anchor on CNN’s “Live From”.

Lemon’s rep responded to the report by describing it as “15-year-old anonymous gossip”, while CNN said that it had been “unable to corroborate the alleged accounts”.

There was also said to be off-air tensions between Lemon and co-anchor Kaitlin Collins following an incident where he had allegedly accused her of interrupting him.

In his statement on Monday, Lemon wrote that “[a]t no time was [he] ever given any indication” that he would not return to normal duties at CNN as a result of the comments or any other reasons.

CNN pushed back on Lemon’s version of events, however.

“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.”

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