Don Lemon Slammed for "Volatile" and "Diva-Like Behavior" in New Report
Past and present coworkers claim that the news anchor has a turbulent history in the workplace.
Over the past several months, CNN's Don Lemon has been making headlines as opposed to just discussing them. In February, it was reported that Lemon had screamed at his CNN This Morning co-anchor Kaitlan Collins in Dec. 2022, prompting her to flee the studio. During a Feb. 16 broadcast, things got even more tense when Lemon said 51-year-old GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley "isn't in her prime." The statement left his co-anchors—and viewers—puzzled and perturbed, and Lemon was absent from the next three broadcasts. He tweeted ahead of his return that he's "committed to doing better," but new reports suggest the problem runs deeper, and that Lemon has a history of "diva-like behavior." Read on to find out what his past and present co-workers have to say about him.
Lemon has been acting this way for a while, sources claim.
In a scathing new report published by Variety, Lemon's colleagues allege that the most recent reports of bad behavior are nothing new.
Accusations against Lemon date back to 2008, when he was the co-anchor of CNN's Live From news show, alongside Kyra Phillips. There was reportedly tension between the two, with Lemon pulled off set due to "provocative antics," Variety reported.
The issue came to a head when Phillips was assigned to coverage in Iraq—a job Lemon wanted—prompting him to tear up notes and pictures at his co-anchor's desk, and send aggressive texts when she returned.
"Now you've crossed the line, and you're going to pay for it," read one message, which CNN executives eventually traced back to Lemon. Following an investigation by human resources, Lemon was moved to a weekend slot, per Variety.
In a statement provided to Variety, a CNN spokesperson said, "Don says the alleged incident never occurred and that he was never notified of any investigation. CNN cannot corroborate the alleged events from 15 years ago."
When reached by Best Life, a CNN spokesperson directed us to use the statements given to Variety.
Speaking to the larger allegations in the report, a spokesperson on behalf of Lemon tells Best Life, "The story, which is riddled with patently false anecdotes and no concrete evidence, is entirely based on unsourced, unsubstantiated, 15-year-old anonymous gossip. It's amazing and disappointing that Variety would be so reckless."
Lemon allegedly didn't play by the rules.
Among the many accusations thrown at Lemon in the Variety piece, past and present coworkers said he bragged about his previous lawsuits, suggesting that he wasn't afraid of litigation. He was also, per Variety sources, dating a 22-year-old junior employee, even though it created a power imbalance.
"As fast as you could make a rule, Don would bend it," a senior executive at the time told Variety. Others claimed that Lemon exhibited "diva-like behavior" by arriving late, skipping calls, or otherwise not engaging.
It wasn't until Lemon complained that Anderson Cooper got more airtime during the memorial for Michael Jackson in 2009 that higher-ups stepped in, sources claim.
"That led to a come-to-Jesus moment," another CNN senior executive at the time told Variety. "Don was told, 'Look, you've got to address your behavior. Your performance as a reporter is great. It's your behavior that's gotta improve. It's what's going to derail you if you're not careful.'"
There were also serious allegations about misogyny.
Sources told Variety that Lemon's misogyny revealed itself years ago as well. He reportedly called a female producer fat and mocked Nancy Grace while she was on the air. A witness who saw Lemon mimic Grace said the incident "was the beginning of when you knew that Don was kind of volatile and didn't say good things about women."
Later on, when Soledad O'Brien landed the hosting job for the Black in America docuseries, Lemon was displeased and allegedly questioned O'Brien's race. A CNN spokesperson told Variety that O'Brien has "correctly referred to her Afro-Cuban heritage as it is a unique part of her personal story," but noted that Lemon denies making "any related remark in a derogatory way."
For her part, O'Brien told Variety, "Don has long had a habit of saying idiotic and inaccurate things, so it sounds pretty on brand for him."
Goldie Taylor, who was a CNN consultant at one point, tweeted in 2016 that she was "personally banned" from CNN after she challenged Lemon's statements about the Black community. A CNN spokesperson told Variety they were unsure why Taylor no longer works with CNN.
"I'm never surprised when Don gets in trouble," Taylor told Variety. "It makes me neither happy nor sad to see him undermine his own success. There was a time when it appeared that Black people were most often the subject of his ire. Now, it seems to me that when he says something offensive, there's almost always a woman on the other side."
Lemon is currently undergoing "formal training."
Coworkers also questioned Lemon's journalistic ethics, per Variety, but he still maintains his position at CNN. Former CNN CEOs Phil Kent and Jeff Zucker were friendly with Lemon, but under the new regime—led by Chris Licht—Lemon has reportedly been reprimanded.
Following his divisive comments about Haley, Lemon was ordered to undergo "formal training," according to a memo to CNN employees from Licht.
"I sat down with Don and had a frank and meaningful conversation," Licht wrote, per the Associated Press. "He has agreed to participate in formal training, as well as continuing to listen and learn. We take this situation very seriously."