Don Lemon, CNN Star Anchor, Departs Network Abruptly


Don Lemon is out at CNN.

In an announcement that Mr. Lemon stated left him “shocked,” CNN on Monday declared an finish to its longtime relationship with Mr. Lemon, a star anchor who was a fixture of the community’s prime-time lineup earlier than enduring a brief however controversial tenure as a morning present co-host.

“CNN and Don have parted methods,” Chris Licht, CNN’s chairman, stated in a press release. “Don will eternally be part of the CNN household, and we thank him for his contributions over the previous 17 years. We want him properly and will probably be cheering him on in his future endeavors.”

That benign language contrasted sharply with Mr. Lemon’s interpretation of the day’s occasions. In a scathing message on Twitter, he advised viewers that his expertise agent had abruptly knowledgeable him “that I’ve been terminated by CNN.”

“I’m shocked,” Mr. Lemon wrote. “After 17 years at CNN I might have thought that somebody in administration would have had the decency to inform me instantly. At no time was I ever given any indication that I might not be capable of proceed to do the work I’ve cherished on the community.” (CNN disputed Mr. Lemon’s account, saying the anchor “was supplied a chance to satisfy with administration however as an alternative launched a press release on Twitter.”)

In a transparent signal of acrimony, Mr. Lemon has retained the aggressive Hollywood litigator Bryan Freedman to deal with his exit. His contract with CNN runs by means of 2026, in keeping with two folks with direct information of his deal.

Hours earlier than the dueling statements, Mr. Lemon, 57, appeared on air in his ordinary anchor chair on “CNN This Morning,” the present he had hosted since November with Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins. He confirmed no indicators of tension and signed off to viewers with a smile and a pleasant “Bye, everyone.”

One in all CNN’s most recognizable stars, Mr. Lemon had a fame as a fiery political commentator throughout his eight years as a prime-time anchor. However contained in the community, he started to lose help after he made remarks in February about girls and getting older that had been extensively perceived to be sexist. The incident generated a nationwide uproar and a uncommon public rebuke from Mr. Licht.

Mr. Lemon had asserted on the air that Nikki Haley, the 51-year-old Republican presidential candidate, “isn’t in her prime, sorry,” including, “A girl is taken into account to be in her prime in her 20s and 30s and possibly 40s.” He dismissed the objections of his feminine co-hosts by responding, “I’m simply saying what the details are — Google it.” He later apologized to the CNN newsroom and agreed to a company coaching program to handle his on-air habits.

Allies of Mr. Lemon had hoped he would flip the web page from the incident. However executives at CNN progressively concluded that his future at CNN had turn into untenable, in keeping with two individuals who spoke on the situation of anonymity as a result of the inner discussions had been delicate.

In latest weeks, CNN’s bookers had found that some company didn’t need to seem on the air with Mr. Lemon, and analysis on the morning present reviewed by CNN executives discovered that his reputation with audiences had fallen, one of many folks stated.

In its Monday assertion, CNN stated its morning present — a significant initiative of Mr. Licht — would proceed. “‘CNN This Morning’ has been on the air for almost six months, and we’re dedicated to its success,” the community stated.

Nonetheless, Mr. Lemon’s exit raises the opportunity of an even bigger overhaul. Ms. Collins, a former White Home correspondent, lately drew strong rankings throughout a weeklong run instead host at 9 p.m., fueling hypothesis throughout the community that she could be thought of for a everlasting place within the time slot.

Mr. Lemon’s abrupt exit capped a dramatic fall for an anchor who simply seven months in the past was fortunately ensconced in prime time. His long-running 10 p.m. program, “Don Lemon Tonight,” drew followers for his spiky exchanges and pull-no-punches commentary on politics and the Trump White Home.

Mr. Lemon imported that persona to “CNN This Morning,” nevertheless it was a clumsy match for an hour when many viewers — making breakfast and getting kids off to highschool — need easygoing patter, not thundering monologues.

Tensions additionally emerged between Mr. Lemon and one among his co-anchors, Ms. Collins. In December, “CNN This Morning” crew members had been rattled after a backstage incident through which Mr. Lemon accused Ms. Collins of interrupting him too typically.

In latest weeks, CNN leaders had been hopeful that Mr. Lemon would alter to his new morning-show function and that larger rankings would comply with.

On Wednesday, nevertheless, Mr. Lemon made headlines once more after a extremely contentious on-air trade with Vivek Ramaswamy, a Republican presidential candidate. The phase deteriorated as the boys fiercely debated questions of Black historical past and the Second Modification; Mr. Lemon’s co-anchor Ms. Harlow might be seen sitting silently beside him, at instances casting her gaze elsewhere and scrolling by means of her smartphone.

The incident left a number of CNN leaders exasperated, the folks stated.

Mr. Lemon joined CNN in 2006 from an area NBC station in Chicago. In 2011, he made waves when he acknowledged in a memoir what lots of his colleagues already knew: He’s homosexual. On the time, few nationwide tv newscasters had been out in public. Mr. Lemon was upfront about what he described because the dangers of popping out as a Black man, sharing his issues “that folks may shun me.”

“CNN This Morning” was a marquee initiative of Mr. Licht, a former morning-show producer, who succeeded Jeff Zucker as CNN’s chief in Might 2022 and has overseen main adjustments on the community since Warner Bros. Discovery acquired its mum or dad firm in a media megamerger. Dozens of CNN staff had been laid off, and a few main producers and anchors left.

“CNN This Morning” has gotten off to a really sluggish begin within the rankings, and struggled to maintain tempo with its predecessor, “New Day.” At an look final week on the Paley Middle for Media, Mr. Licht stated mornings had been “probably the most aggressive” hours in tv.

“To launch a brand new present takes time,” he stated. “And so it completely has had rising pains, and it’ll completely proceed to evolve.” This system will now evolve with out Mr. Lemon on the helm.

In a cheerful announcement in September, Mr. Lemon described the possibility to host a brand new morning present as “a thrill” and praised Mr. Licht for choosing him. “I used to be actually floored when Chris Licht requested me to do that, and I’m honored by his perception in me,” the anchor wrote on the time.

“Set your alarms people,” Mr. Lemon added, “as a result of we’re going to have a number of enjoyable.”

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