The Real Reason CNN Fired Don Lemon, Insiders Say
The network had specific reasons for ousting the embattled anchor.
On April 24, Don Lemon announced that he had been terminated from his position at CNN. Lemon, who was a co-anchor of CNN This Morning, took to Twitter to issue a statement about the network's decision, which he said left him "stunned." However, the news may not be as surprising to viewers, as Lemon has consistently made headlines for his behavior since the beginning of the year—and according to insiders, the issue runs even deeper. Read on to find out what they're saying is the real reason Lemon was fired.
Lemon said he learned of his termination via email.
Lemon appeared as usual during Monday's episode of CNN This Morning, but little did viewers know it would be his last show. In his tweet, Lemon wrote that he was informed of his termination via an email from his agent.
"I am stunned," Lemon wrote. "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."
Lemon added, "It is clear that there are some larger issues at play," also extending thanks to his colleagues and team members. "They are the most talented journalists in the business, and I wish them all the best."
CNN refuted Lemon's claims.
CNN initially tweeted that Lemon and the network "parted ways," insinuating that the move was somewhat amicable.
"Don will forever be a part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years," CNN Communications wrote. "We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors."
However, after Lemon released his own statement, the network changed its tune.
"Don Lemon's statement about this morning's events is inaccurate," CNN Communications tweeted approximately 45 minutes after Lemon. "He was offered an opportunity to meet with management but instead released a statement on Twitter."
Best Life reached out to CNN for comment, and will update the story upon hearing back.
Sources say a few key factors led to CNN's decision.
While both Lemon and CNN avoided saying what prompted the decision, recent events likely had something to do with it.
Lemon caught flak for comments he made on-air about 51-year-old GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley, who he said "isn't in her prime." And late last year, Lemon also reportedly screamed at co-anchor Kaitlan Collins while on set, prompting her to flee the studio.
While Lemon issued an apology to the network for his comments about Haley and agreed to undergo "formal training," his actions apparently weren't overlooked.
Two anonymous insiders told The New York Times that Lemon's supporters hoped he would make a positive change, but network executives eventually determined that his position at CNN "had become untenable."
The sources told the NYT that the real motivation to oust Lemon was due to the fact that certain guests didn't want to appear on the show with him. His popularity with audiences also fell, according to research on the show, one of the insiders added.
In its statement to the NYT, the network did confirm that CNN This Morning will continue, presumably with Lemon's co-anchors Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins at the helm.
"CNN This Morning has been on the air for nearly six months, and we are committed to its success," CNN said.
Lemon's termination follows a scathing report published in Variety.
Earlier this month, Variety published a bombshell report about Lemon's alleged "volatile" and "diva-like behavior" at CNN. Among the many accusations were claims that he would often bend the rules, including once creating a power imbalance by dating a 22-year-old junior employee.
There were serious allegations about misogyny, as well, with some dating back several years. In 2008, sources allege Lemon sent threatening text messages to his then-co-anchor Kyra Phillips after she was assigned to coverage in Iraq—a job that sources told Variety that Lemon wanted.
In a statement previously provided to Best Life, a spokesperson for Lemon called the story "unsourced" and "unsubstantiated."
"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," the spokesperson said.