Insiders Explain Why CNN Soured on Lemon

Ramaswamy interview may have been the last straw
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2023 8:28 PM CDT
Report: CNN Leaders Decided Lemon's Role Was 'Untenable'
Don Lemon attends the 15th annual CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute at the American Museum of Natural History on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in New York.   (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Don Lemon's departure from CNN Monday came as a surprise to many—apparently including the "stunned" host himself—but insiders say leaders at the network had come to see it as inevitable. Sources tell the New York Times that execs "gradually concluded" Lemon's position had become "untenable" after the uproar that followed his February remark about 51-year-old GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley not being "in her prime." Lemon's status at the network also suffered from disappointing ratings at CNN This Morning, which he moved to in November, and clashes with co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins. The sources say guests had become increasingly unwilling to appear with Lemon and polls found his popularity with audiences had faded.

The New York Times' sources say execs decided Lemon's prime-time persona wasn't a good fit for CNN This Morning and they were "exasperated" by his exchange last week with another Republican candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy. Lemon, who is Black, clashed heatedly with Ramaswamy over issues including gun rights and Black history, the New York Post reports. Lemon said it was "insulting" that Ramaswamy was "sitting here, whatever ethnicity you are, explaining to me what it’s like to be Black in America." Ramaswamy told Fox Monday that the firing was a "sound decision" and he believes the exchange played a role.

"I think that any network that wants to foster open debate should embrace that principle by not restricting what someone can say or saying what someone can say is restricted based on their skin color," Ramaswamy said. The Washington Post reports that Harlow and Collins had warm words for Lemon on Tuesday morning's CNN This Morning, but they did not discuss the reasons for his departure. Lemon and Tucker Carlson, the other host fired by a major network on Monday, have hired the same lawyer. (More Don Lemon stories.)

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