Don Lemon’s former CNN’s co-anchors early Tuesday addressed his sudden firing from the network one day earlier, sharing news of his departure with the outlet’s audience and praising his nearly 20-year career at the cable news giant.
“We begin with some news about this show,” anchor Poppy Harlow said as “CNN This Morning,” opened. “As you may have heard yesterday, CNN parted ways with Don Lemon.”
Lemon was fired amid a slew of negative headlines and controversies that have embroiled the longtime television news personality over the last several months.
In a statement, which Harlow read on the air, CNN president Chris Licht said “Don will forever be a part of the CNN family.”
“Don was a big part of this show for the past six months,” co-host Kaitlan Collins said. “He was one of the first anchors on CNN to ever have me on his show. That’s something I’ll obviously never forget. I agree with Chris, we wish him the best.”
Harlow also noted her friendship with Lemon and said she and Collins are proud of the work that has gone into the network’s revamped morning program, which has been on the air for less than seven months and has so far failed to break through in the ratings in the ultra-competitive morning news show landscape.
Lemon’s firing comes just weeks after he had been briefly pulled off the air for comments about Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, saying she was “not in her prime,” remarks that were widely panned as sexist and landed him in sensitivity training.
More recently, a report surfaced in popular culture magazine “Variety” outlining an alleged history of Lemon’s abuse of his female coworkers and staff, which he through CNN’s spokespeople denied.
On the air, signs of tension on the show had been evident for weeks, with Lemon at times clashing with his co-hosts over his comments on Haley, equal pay in women’s sports and other cultural issues.
Lemon, who hosted a prime time show on CNN during the Trump administration, had developed a reputation in the cable news business in recent years as a lightning rod for criticism from the right for his aggressive commentary on conservatives and Trump supporters.
Harlow, Lemon and Collins were tapped by Licht last fall to host “CNN This Morning” amid a slew of programming and personnel changes the network’s top executive has implemented in an effort to rectify the channel’s sluggish ratings and damaged reputation with some conservatives.
Lemon, at the time he left his prime time show, insisted he was “not demoted” and said he welcomed an opportunity to host Licht’s new morning program.
As news of his firing broke, Lemon said he was “stunned” to hear from his agent he was being ousted and complained that nobody in CNN leadership had the “decency” to tell him directly.
“Don Lemon’s statement about this morning’s events is inaccurate,” a CNN spokesperson said shortly afterward, pushing back on the anchor’s framing of the circumstances surrounding his departure. “He was offered an opportunity to meet with management but instead released a statement on Twitter.”
The network has not said if it would seek to find a replacement for Lemon on its morning show as of Tuesday.
“And of course this morning we want to keep the focus on the news and where that belongs, so let’s get to it,” Collins said before kicking off a report on President Biden’s announcement he would run for president in 2024.