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Former CNN anchor Don Lemon loses show after Elon Musk interview

President Joe Biden and former CNN anchor Don Lemon participate in a town hall-style interview in 2021. (White House photo)
President Joe Biden and former CNN anchor Don Lemon participate in a town hall-style interview in 2021. (White House photo)

Former CNN anchor Don Lemon has lost his newest gig before it even got off the ground.

On Wednesday, Lemon confirmed that his forthcoming web series on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter) was canceled by Elon Musk after an interview with the website’s owner got heated.

The 90-minute interview was filmed at Musk’s office in Austin, where his space exploration business SpaceX is headquartered, with both men taking different things out of the interview.

“We had a good conversation; clearly he felt differently,” Lemon said in a statement following the interview. “His commitment to a global town square where all questions can be asked and all ideas can be shared seems not to include questions of him from people like me.”

The specific questions that stoked Musk’s temper weren’t revealed by Lemon, though the news anchor said their conversation covered the U.S. Presidential election, his SpaceX business and other things. Lemon characterized his questions as “respectful and wide-ranging,” and said the interview will be released on YouTube next week.

Many were caught off-guard by the sudden cancellation of Lemon’s X show, which was announced earlier this year following his firing at CNN. Those who were surprised by the decision to drop Lemon’s show include sales executives at X / Twitter, who were already working to sell ad inventory against the program, according to a report from the New York Times.

Musk, who initially supported Lemon’s pursuit of a new web series, said this week that the initial development of the show resembled “CNN, but on social media.”

“[That] doesn’t work, as evident by the fact that CNN is dying,” Musk remarked. “And, instead of it being the real Don Lemon, it was really just Jeff Zucker talking through Don, so it lacked authenticity.”

Lemon and Zucker were both pushed out of CNN following separate and unrelated scandals. Zucker, who worked as CNN’s global president, was revealed to have developed a consensual but otherwise undisclosed relationship with a subordinate at the network. The relationship was grounds for his termination, officials at CNN said.

Lemon was dismissed several weeks after entertainment trade publication Variety published a lengthy profile that detailed allegations of harassment and misogyny by the CNN morning host during his career at the network. Shortly after the report was published online, executives said the network couldn’t corroborate some allegations against Lemon — but the story became too much of a distraction for CNN, and he was dismissed after failing to meet with his managers on the matter.

Musk and X /Twitter never agreed to a formal contract with Lemon for his show, according to people familiar with the issue, and the company said he was free to distribute a self-produced show through their platform if he wishes.

“The Don Lemon Show is welcome to publish its content on X, without censorship, as we believe in providing a platform for creators to scale their work and connect with new communities,” a spokesperson for X / Twitter said in a statement. However, like any enterprise, we reserve the right to make decisions about our business partnerships, and after careful consideration, X (Twitter) decided not to enter into a commercial partnership with the show.”

In a separate statement, a spokesperson for Lemon said there was some kind of paid agreement for the show, and that he “expects to be paid for it,” even if the show does not proceed as planned.

“If we have to go to court, we will,” the spokesperson warned.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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