CNN has parted ways with longtime host Don Lemon. The announcement Monday came without explanation and astonished the media industry.
“Don will forever be a part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years,” said CNN CEO Chris Licht in a memo to staff. “We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors.”
Lemon anchored “CNN This Morning” with Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins. The show has been on the air for nearly six months.
“We are committed to its success,” Licht said of the morning show.
In a statement of his own, Lemon said his agent told him Monday morning that CNN had terminated him.
“I am stunned,” Lemon said, arguing that management did not have “the decency” to inform him of his firing 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
CNN rebutted Lemon, calling his version of events “inaccurate.”
“He was offered an opportunity to meet with management but instead released a statement on Twitter,” the network said in a statement.
Lemon joined CNN in September 2006. Prior to “CNN This Morning,” Lemon hosted the prime-time show “Don Lemon Tonight” for more than eight years. He gained significant fame during the presidency of Donald Trump for his no-holds-barred commentary about the former president, pushing back against his lies and calling him a “racist.”
He was widely criticized for sexist comments he made on “CNN This Morning” in February. During an on-air discussion about Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley’s proposal that older politicians take competency tests, Lemon argued that the 51-year-old Haley “isn’t in her prime.”
Lemon said a woman is only “considered to be in their prime in 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.” Co-anchors Harlow and Collins pushed back, but Lemon doubled down on his point.
Licht later sent a memo to CNN staff, calling the comments “unacceptable.” Licht said he had a “frank” conversation with Lemon, who apologized and was set to participate in formal training sessions
“It is important to me that CNN balances accountability with … fostering a culture in which people can own, learn and grow from their mistakes,” Licht said at the time.
“When I make a mistake, I own it,” Lemon told staff during an editorial meeting. “And I own this one as well.”
Earlier this month, Variety published a report detailing allegations of misogyny aimed at female coworkers. Lemon denied the allegations.