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Don Lemon Fired From CNN—A Timeline of His Recent Controversies

The longtime anchor parted ways with the network on April 24.

On Monday, April 25, two news channel shake-ups were announced in quick succession. Tucker Carlson was let go from Fox News, while Don Lemon was fired from CNN. Though the network didn't give a reason for Lemon's departure, the news anchor has been involved in several controversies in recent years, which may have played a role.

Lemon first began appearing on CNN in 2006. He got his own show, Don Lemon Tonight, in 2014. Then, in 2022, he left his nightly show to co-host CNN This Morning alongside Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins.

In February, Lemon received backlash for comments he made about women, and more recently, allegations surfaced about his behavior behind the scenes. Read on to find out more about the headlines the 57-year-old journalist has made lately and what we know occurred in the lead-up to his firing.

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Feb. 16, 2023: Lemon makes a sexist comment on air.

Poppy Harlow, Don Lemon, and Kaitlan Collins on "CNN This Morning"

During the Feb. 16 episode of CNN This Morning, Lemon, Harlow, and Collins were discussing presidential hopeful Nikki Haley and her comment that politicians should have to take mental competency tests if they are over 75 years old.

"This whole talk about age makes me uncomfortable. I think it's the wrong road to go down," Lemon said on the show. "She says politicians … are not in their prime. Nikki Haley isn't in her prime. Sorry. When a woman is considered to be in her prime in her 20s, and 30s, and maybe 40s." Haley is 51.

When his co-hosts questioned what he meant, Lemon said that it was "not according to [him]," but to Google. "Don't shoot the messenger," he said. "I'm just saying what the facts are. Google it."

Feb. 16, 2023: Lemon apologizes and takes time off.

Don Lemon at the premiere of "The Morning Show" in 2019
Ron Adar / Shutterstock

The same day the episode aired, Lemon apologized on Twitter for his comments.

"The reference I made to a woman's 'prime' this morning was inartful and irrelevant, as colleagues and loved ones have pointed out, and I regret it," he wrote. "A woman's age doesn't define her either personally or professionally. I have countless women in my life who prove that every day."

Lemon was absent from the show for a few days. CNN reported that CEO Chris Licht said in an email to employees that Lemon would be participating in "formal training" and "continuing to listen and learn."

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April 5, 2023: Allegations surface about Lemon's behavior.

Don Lemon at the CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute in 2021
lev radin / Shutterstock

On April 5, Variety published a report about Lemon that includes claims that he has a long history of unprofessional behavior toward women colleagues, including Soledad O'Brien, Nancy Grace, and Kyra Phillips. Someone anonymously claimed to the publication that he also displayed "diva-like behavior" at CNN.

The article recaps past scandals involving the host, including saying in 2013 that the Black community could better itself by not wearing sagging pants, and asking a Bill Cosby sexual assault accuser in 2014 if she had considered biting Cosby's penis. More recently, in 2022, he controversially said on CNN This Morning that the U.S. men's national soccer team should be paid more than the women's team amid the latter's battle for parity.

In response to the Variety article, a spokesperson for Lemon told 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."

April 24, 2023: CNN announces that Lemon is out.

Don Lemon at the GLAAD Media Awards in 2019
lev radin / Shutterstock

On April 24, CNN announced that Lemon would be leaving the network.

"CNN and Don have parted ways," Licht said in a statement, according to The New York Times. "Don will forever be a part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years. We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors."

While CNN did not specify the reason that Lemon was leaving, The New York Times reports that someone familiar with the situation said that Lemon's popularity with viewers had decreased and that booking guests for the show had become an issue.

April 24, 2023: Lemon speaks out on Twitter.

Lemon dropped a statement of his own, claiming that he had been blindsided. According to The New York Times, his contract was meant to last through 2026.

"I was informed this morning by my agent that I have been terminated by CNN," he tweeted. "I am stunned. After 17 years at CNN I would have thought that 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." He went on to thank his colleagues and wish them well.

The network disputed Lemon's version of events. CNN Communications 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."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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