Officials at Warner Bros Discovery’s (WBD) cable news network CNN say they’re not able to substantiate allegations made against morning show host Don Lemon that appeared in an article published by trade publication Variety this week.
The article, penned by former Rolling Stone senior writer Tatiana Siegel, accuses Lemon of targeting and harassing female colleagues for several years, with the most-disturbing claim dating back to 2008.
According to Siegel, Lemon threatened former CNN co-anchor Kyra Phillips after she was assigned to cover the fallout from the war in Iraq, a gig that Lemon apparently wanted for himself.
After Phillips secured the assignment, Lemon allegedly wrote a text message to his co-anchor saying she had “crossed the line, and you’re going to pay for it.” He believed the text message to be anonymous, but Phillips enlisted executives at the network, and it was eventually traced back to him, Siegel wrote.
Lemon apparently declined to participate in the story. A spokesperson for CNN said the network wasn’t able to substantiate claims about an alleged threat that was purportedly made 15 years ago, and otherwise asserted Lemon’s position that he never sent a text message.
The story goes on to make similar allegations of misogyny and harassment by Lemon against other female colleagues, including Soledad O’Brien and Nancy Grace. Both O’Brien and Grace have since left CNN.
Lemon came under fire in mid-February for remarks he made about Republican presidential contender Nikki Haley, claiming the candidate “isn’t in her prime,” suggesting she wasn’t fit to run for office because of her age. (Haley was 51 years old at the time of his comment.)
He doubled down on his crass remark by asserting that women are “considered to be in [their] prime in [their] 20s and 30s, and maybe 40s.” He revisited his comment about an hour later during a segment with political commentator Audie Cornish, who pointed out there was a difference between a woman’s ability to have children and her mental fitness.
“She’s in her prime for running for office,” Cornish stated. “Political prime is what we’re talking about.”
Amid a wave of social media criticism, Lemon eventually offered up an apology, and the network temporarily pulled him from the air.
Siegel’s probe into Lemon’s past behavior at CNN apparently began a short time later, with her exposé published by Variety on Wednesday. The article relied on “more than a dozen former and current colleagues,” virtually none of whom were sourced by name.
One who was willing to speak on the record was O’Brien, a purported target of Lemon’s harassment during her time at the network. “Don has long had a habit of saying idiotic and inaccurate things,” O’Brien told the publication. “So it sounds pretty on brand for him.”
According to Siegel, employees at CNN have privately called for Lemon to be fired from the network, given his apparent hostility toward female colleagues for nearly two decades. As of Wednesday, CNN has taken no action against him.