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CNN fires morning show host Don Lemon

Lemon's dismissal followed a major exposé by Variety that alleged ongoing harassment and misogyny against CNN talent for years.

Lemon's dismissal followed a major exposé by Variety that alleged ongoing harassment and misogyny against CNN talent for years.

CNN morning show host Don Lemon appears in a 2018 photograph. (Image via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)
CNN morning show host Don Lemon appears in a 2018 photograph. (Image via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

CNN has fired Don Lemon, one of its more-prominent hosts, following an exposé published by an entertainment trade publication earlier this month.

Lemon first revealed his firing through the social media platform Twitter on Monday.

“I am stunned,” Lemon said. “After 17 years at CNN, I would have thought someone in management would have had the decency to tell me directly.”

In a memo sent to CNN employee, CNN Chairman and CEO Chris Licht thanked Lemon for his lengthy career at the network.

“Don will forever be part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years,” Licht wrote. “We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors.”

Later, a spokesperson for CNN said Lemon’s tweet was misleading, noting that “he was offered an opportunity to meet with management, but instead released a statement on Twitter.”

Lemon’s termination comes less than three weeks after Variety published a lengthy profile that detailed allegations of harassment and misogyny by the CNN morning host during his lengthy career at the network.

According to Variety media correspondent Tatiana 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.

A spokesperson for Lemon called the Variety story inaccurate, saying it was “riddled with patently false anecdotes and no concrete evidence” and “entirely based on unsourced, unsubstantiated, 15-year-old anonymous gossip.”

Lemon joined CNN in 2006 following various local television news jobs, including positions at NBC-owned WMAQ (Channel 5) in Chicago and WCAU (Channel 10) in Philadelphia.

Late last year, Lemon was moved from CNN’s prime-time schedule to mornings, where he hosted the newly-relaunched breakfast program “CNN This Morning.”

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.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).