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CNN announces it's parted ways with news anchor Don Lemon

Don Lemon attends the 16th annual CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute at the American Museum of Natural History on Dec. 11, 2022, in New York City.
Mike Coppola
Getty Images for CNN
Don Lemon attends the 16th annual CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute at the American Museum of Natural History on Dec. 11, 2022, in New York City.

Updated April 24, 2023 at 2:06 PM ET

News anchor Don Lemon is out at CNN, the cable network announced Monday.

"Don will forever be a part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years," the news outlet said in a tweet. "We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors."

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In a statement posted to his Twitter account, Lemon confirmed his ouster, saying his agent told him Monday morning that he had been terminated by CNN.

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

"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. It is clear that there are some larger issues at play."

CNN called Lemon's characterization about his firing "inaccurate" and said he was given a chance to meet with management.

The news of Lemon's departure came shortly after an announcement by Fox News that it had parted ways with popular and controversial host Tucker Carlson.

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Lemon had recently returned to the air after taking time off following sexist and ageist remarks he made on CNN about Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley.

During an episode of CNN This Morning in February, Lemon said the 51-year-old Haley wasn't "in her prime" and suggested a woman is "considered to be in her prime in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s."

Lemon later apologized, saying at an editorial meeting with CNN colleagues that he understood "why people found it completely misguided."

After Chris Licht became CNN's CEO in 2022, Lemon left his prime-time slot at the network and joined daytime anchor Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, chief White House correspondent, to helm a new show, CNN This Morning. Colleagues described Lemon as convinced he was the primary host of the show - a conviction his co-hosts and network executives did not share. Collins, in particular, told friends at CNN that she felt Lemon was dismissive of her, and they had clashed off the air.

During the Trump administration, the then-evening anchor was seen as an outspoken critic of the president.

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Lemon told NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday in 2021 that he believed Trump was often angered by him because of his identity and his approach to his work.

"I am a gay Black man who has a platform and who speaks truth to power. I'm not a Democrat nor a Republican. And I think initially, Donald Trump thought through his interviews with me that he could try to co-opt me, and he didn't," Lemon said.

"And when I think he realized that he wasn't going to be able to co-opt me over on his side to — you know, not to give him a tough interview or to hold him accountable, I think his play was to demonize me because that played with his base," he added.

During a recent panel discussion with the news outlet Semafor, Licht described Lemon as a "lightning rod."

"Because he really came to prominence during an era where that was celebrated and encouraged in prime time. That was CNN's prime time. That is not CNN's prime time" anymore, Licht said.

"The world has moved on from that. Don has moved on from that," Licht continued. "Don was the first one to go, 'I'm tired of having to set my hair on fire every night. I want to try something new.' "

David Folkenflik contributed to this story.

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Joe Hernandez
[Copyright 2024 NPR]