Don Lemon Loses Hosting Gig Amid Nikki Haley Controversy

Don Lemon has pulled out of a gig amid backlash. The CNN anchor reportedly withdrew from the upcoming Black History Month event in New York on Tuesday, according to TMZ. He backed out of the "Agents of Change" event after being criticized for sexist remarks he made during a CNN This Morning conversation about Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley. At 51 years old, Lemon said Haley is not "in her prime," explaining that he considered a woman to be in her prime "in her 20s, 30s and maybe her 40s." As Poppy Harlow challenged Lemon on the comments, Lemon replied, "Don't shoot the messenger, I'm just saying what the facts are." Lemon pulled out of the Douglas Elliman panel that he had agreed to moderate because he felt the controversy would overshadow the event, sources told TMZ. John Gomes will replace Lemon as moderator.

CNN's top boss Chris Licht broke the news on Monday night that Lemon will be back on the air starting Wednesday, Feb. 22, despite speculation that he would lose his job because of his comments. As reported by the Daily Beast, he said in the memo, "To my CNN Colleagues, I sat down with Don and had a frank and meaningful conversation. He has agreed to participate in formal training, as well as continuing to listen and learn. We take this situation very seriously. It is important to me that CNN balances accountability with fostering a culture in which people can own, learn and grow from their mistakes. To that end, Don will return to CNN This Morning on Wednesday."

The public was not particularly impressed with Lemon's post-segment apologies on Twitter, and a similar reaction was received when he apologized in person to CNN staffers on Friday morning. CNN This Morning eventually dropped him. However, Licht said Lemon would return to work after meeting with the network executive early on Monday to work things out. The last year or so hasn't been the best for Lemon. He avoided litigation after his accuser dropped an assault lawsuit in mid-2022. However, he became embroiled in another case when Chris Cuomo sued CNN after being fired for ties to Andrew Cuomo's collapse. In response to his on-air remarks last Thursday, the anchor apologized publicly, stating, "When I make a mistake, I own it. And I own this one as well." In Friday's editorial call, Licht called Lemon's remarks "upsetting, unacceptable, and unfair" and a "huge distraction."