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The dramatic end of Don Lemon’s controversial tenure at CNN

CNN has “parted ways” with the CNN This Morning co-host following allegations of misogyny.

US television journalist Don Lemon arrives for the Recording Academy and Clive Davis pre-Grammy gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on February 4, 2023. 
Michael Tran/AFP via Getty Images
Nicole Narea covers politics and society for Vox. She first joined Vox in 2019, and her work has also appeared in Politico, Washington Monthly, and the New Republic.

CNN announced Monday that Don Lemon — a co-host of CNN This Morning and, before that, longtime primetime anchor of Don Lemon Tonight — was leaving the network.

The circumstances of his departure weren’t immediately clear. But Lemon has been the subject of controversy for years over his alleged misogynistic treatment of female cohosts and recent remarks questioning 51-year-old Republican Nikki Haley’s viability as a presidential candidate because of her age.

CNN said in a statement Monday morning that it had “parted ways” with Lemon on good terms: “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.”

But drama on Twitter suggested those terms might not be so good.

In a statement posted six minutes before CNN’s tweet, Lemon said that he had learned of the separation from his agent. He also suggested that “there are some larger issues at play,” though didn’t specify what he meant by that.

“I am stunned,” he said. “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.”

The network responded in a statement that his version of what happened was “inaccurate” and that he had been “offered an opportunity to meet with management but instead released a statement on Twitter.”

Lemon’s departure, announced the same day another network (Fox) said one of its marquee hosts (Tucker Carlson) was leaving, will bring an end to his 17-year tenure at the network.

What we know about the allegations against Don Lemon

In February, Lemon was briefly put on leave for his on-air comments about Haley after she launched her presidential bid. He said that women are considered to be in their prime through their 30s and possibly their 40s, and that “Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime, sorry.” When his co-host Poppy Harlow asked him what he meant, he said, “Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just saying what the facts are. Google it ... Because she wouldn’t be in her prime, according to Google or whatever it is.”

Haley responded on Twitter, saying, “It’s always the liberals who are the most sexist.” CNN chairperson Chris Licht also condemned the remarks, saying that they were “upsetting, unacceptable and unfair to his co-hosts, and ultimately a huge distraction to the great work of this organization.”

Lemon later apologized and said that his closest cohorts at the network were women: “I did not mean to hurt anyone. I did not mean to offend anyone.”

Lemon has also been accused of other incidents of sexism and harassment of his female coworkers. A Variety investigation earlier this year detailed allegations that in 2008, Lemon tore up things on the desk of his former co-anchor Kyra Phillips and sent her threatening texts via an unknown number after she was selected for an assignment in Iraq that he had wanted for himself.

“Now you’ve crossed the line, and you’re going to pay for it,” he reportedly messaged her.

Lemon has denied those allegations, and CNN has never publicly corroborated them, but he was demoted thereafter.

Variety also cited sources who claim that Lemon “disrespected” Nancy Grace, who had a primetime show on CNN’s sister network, on the air, as well as Soledad O’Brien, who previously anchored several CNN shows, during an editorial meeting.

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