Don Lemon, star CNN anchor, leaves the network

Don Lemon came out on CNN.

CNN said Monday it is parting ways with Mr. Lemon, a star anchor who was part of the network’s prime-time programming before enduring a short but controversial tenure as the show’s co-host. Morning.

“CNN and Don have parted ways,” the network said in a statement Monday. “Don will always be part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contribution over the past 17 years. We wish him well and will encourage him in his future endeavours.

The network said Mr. Lemon’s morning show, which he hosted with Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, will continue. “‘CNN This Morning’ has been on the air for nearly six months, and we are committed to its success,” CNN said.

Mr Lemon, 57, appeared on the air Monday morning as usual. Three hours after signing, he posted a scathing statement on Twitter against his employer.

“I was informed this morning by my agent that I was terminated by CNN,” Lemon wrote. “I am stunned. After 17 years at CNN, I would have thought someone from management would have had the decency to tell me directly. At no time was I given any indication that I would not be able to continue doing the work I loved within the network.

One of CNN’s most recognizable stars, Mr Lemon had a reputation as a feisty political commentator during his eight years as a prime-time anchor. But inside the network, he began to lose support after making remarks in February about women and aging that were widely seen as sexist. The incident caused a national outcry and a rare public reprimand from CNN President Chris Licht.

Mr Lemon had claimed on air that Nikki Haley, the 51-year-old Republican presidential candidate, ‘is not at her peak, sorry’, adding: ‘A woman is considered to be at her peak in her 20s and his 30s and maybe 40s. He dismissed his co-hosts’ objections, replying, “I’m just saying what the facts are — Google it.” apologized to the CNN newsroom and accepted a corporate training program to remedy his on-air behavior.

Mr. Lemon’s allies had hoped he would turn the page on the incident. But CNN executives gradually concluded that his future at CNN had become untenable, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity because the internal discussions were sensitive.

In recent weeks, CNN bookers had discovered that some guests did not want to appear on the air with Mr. Lemon, and research into the morning show reviewed by CNN executives revealed that his popularity with the audience had plummeted, one of the people said.

Monday’s announcement capped a dramatic downfall for Mr Lemon, who just seven months ago was happily ensconced in a prime-time presenter’s chair. His long-running 10 p.m. show, “Don Lemon Tonight,” has drawn fans in for his thorny exchanges and unpunished commentary on politics and the Trump White House.

Mr. Lemon imported that character on “CNN This Morning,” but it was an awkward hour-long meltdown when many viewers — making breakfast and taking the kids to school — want a laid-back crackle, not thundering monologues.

Tensions also emerged between Mr Lemon and one of his co-presenters, Ms Collins. In December, the ‘CNN This Morning’ crew were rocked after a backstage incident where Mr Lemon accused Ms Collins of interrupting him too often.

Mr. Lemon has a long history at CNN, and his outsized public profile meant executives were prepared, for a time, to be patient with him.

He joined the network in 2006 from a local NBC station in Chicago. In 2011, he made waves when he acknowledged in a memoir what many of his colleagues already knew: he is homosexual. At the time, few national television presenters were in public. Mr Lemon was candid about what he described as the risks of coming out as a black man, sharing his concerns “that people might run away from me”.

In recent weeks, CNN executives had hoped that Mr. Lemon would adjust to his new role on the morning show and that higher ratings would follow.

Last Wednesday, Mr. Lemon made headlines again after a very controversial on-air discussion with Vivek Ramaswamy, Republican presidential candidate. The segment deteriorated as the men fiercely debated issues of Black History and the Second Amendment; Mr Lemon’s co-presenter, Ms Harlow, could be seen sitting silently next to him, occasionally glancing away and scrolling through her smartphone.

The incident left several CNN executives exasperated, the people said.

The release of Mr. Lemon introduces the possibility of a complete overhaul of “CNN This Morning,” which began in November. Ms Collins, a former White House correspondent, recently earned solid marks during a week as a backup 9pm host, fueling speculation within the network that she could be considered for a permanent position in the time slot.

“CNN This Morning” was a flagship initiative of Mr. Licht, a former morning show producer who succeeded Jeff Zucker as CNN helmer in May 2022. The show got off to a very slow start in the ratings and struggled to keep up. with its predecessor, “New Day”.

During an appearance last week at the Paley Center for Media, Mr Licht said mornings were the “most competitive” hours on television.

“It’s the last bastion of passive TV viewing, really, where you’re prepping your kids or brushing your teeth,” Licht said. “Launching a new show takes time. And so he absolutely had some growing pains, and he will absolutely continue to evolve.

In September, shortly after the announcement of Mr. Lemon’s new morning role, the presenter released a statement praising Mr. Licht.

“Honestly, I was overwhelmed when Chris Licht asked me to do this, and I’m honored by his confidence in me,” Lemon wrote at the time, adding: “Set your alarms, because we’re going have a lot of fun.”

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