Don Lemon has been terminated by CNN, the anchor announced on Monday just hours after he’d ended his morning broadcast.
“I was informed this morning by my agent that I have been terminated by CNN. I am stunned,” he tweeted in a fiery post announcing his exit. “After 17 years at CNN I would have thought that someone in management would have 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. With that said, I want to thank my colleagues and the many teams I have worked with for an incredible run. They are the most talented journalists in the business, and I wish them all the best.”
CNN CEO Chris Licht confirmed the news in a memo to network staffers: “CNN and Don Lemon have parted ways. Don will forever be a part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years,” he wrote. “We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors.”
CNN disputed Lemon’s characterization of his termination in a statement. “Don Lemon’s statement about this morning’s events is inaccurate,” wrote the network’s PR shop. “He was offered an opportunity to meet with management but instead released a statement on Twitter.”
CNN anchor John King seemed surprised by the news during Monday’s broadcast of Inside Politics. “I don’t know the details happening while I’m sitting in the chair here, but I work here. I love this place,” King said. “Certainly wish Don the best. He’s always been good to me as a colleague.”
The sudden exit ends a tumultuous year for the star anchor, who has seemingly generated one negative headline after another for a network under siege by financial losses and leadership changes.
Lemon was moved to mornings with Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins in September, just more than a year after his primetime show was given an eponymous name. It was a move CNN publicly advertised as “no stronger combination of talent” but was privately considered a last-ditch effort to save the anchor’s job.
Then the hits kept coming. CNN This Morning premiered in November to ratings that were paltry compared to its predecessor New Day—and have since not improved. Tensions also brewed between Lemon and Collins, partly sparked by comments Lemon would make on women.
Lemon lamented in December—exactly a month after This Morning premiered—that professional female soccer players shouldn’t be paid as much as male players because the men were “more interesting to watch.” He was roundly criticized by both Collins and Harlow, prompting Lemon to try to backtrack and defend his position by saying “not everybody, honestly, has the same skill.”
“You’re right that not everyone has the same skills because the women have better skills,” Collins told him at the time.
The saga continued throughout 2023, when Lemon was benched for a week after claiming Nikki Haley “isn’t in her prime” to run for president. The moment left both Harlow and Collins in shock and had them both reportedly storm off the set, according to the New York Post.
Lemon later apologized, both publicly and internally, and agreed to undergo internal training over the remarks. Still, his past comments about female co-workers were exposed in a Variety report earlier this month that detailed his retaliatory efforts against female colleagues that he believed usurped him for prominent positions within CNN. The network blasted the report on Lemon’s behalf at the time, saying the story was “riddled with patently false anecdotes and no concrete evidence.”
But Lemon’s behavior, both in past years and in recent months, seems to suggest there was more going on behind the scenes.