Why Don Lemon Just Got Paid $24.5 Million

CNN was ordered to pay former anchor Don Lemon about $24.5 million to settle his contract dispute after his early termination last spring.

Don Lemon just wrapped up his legal battle with CNN over his early termination in April of 2023. According to a report by The Wrap, CNN was ordered to pay Lemon approximately the same amount he would have made if he had finished his contract, which went on through 2026. The total payout came to about $24.5 million.

CNN fired Lemon in April of 2023 in the midst of a few controversies and some major changes at the network. Lemon had anchored his own primetime show from 2014 until September of 2022, when then-president of the network Chris Licht moved Lemon to CNN This Morning. Some commenters saw this as a demotion for Lemon, and viewers questioned if his presence was suited to the lighthearted schedule. Before long, he found himself in hot water for his commentary on the news of the day.

Whatever the reason, Lemon struggled on the morning show as viewers thought he had an awkward dynamic with his co-anchors, Caitlin Collins and Poppy Harlow. The three even had some high-profile arguments on the show, including one that landed Lemon in hot water and is often cited as the reason for his termination. In February of 2023, the trio reported on comments from Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley, who had suggested there should be "mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old." Lemon remarked that this could be slippery slope, since some might say that 54-year-old Haley wasn't in her prime either.

"Sorry, a woman is considered to be in her prime in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s," Lemon said. That particular comment sparked outrage as many felt it was misogynistic. Lemon issued an apology, but the story brought increased scrutiny down on his past actions as well as his rapport with Collins and Harlow. In April, Lemon announced that he had been fired unceremoniously, and had not even been informed in person.

Licht was also fired in June of 2023, and many of his big changes for CNN were reversed or toned down. In a later interview with Kara Swisher, Lemon seemed to feel that his own termination was related to Licht's tumultuous tenure at the network, saying: "The strategy and their content and the direction they wanted to go in – I was not a part of that. They did not want me to be a part of that, and I think that has, from what has played out publicly as it relates to CNN, as it relates to management, and what they're doing now, I think that it's obvious that they didn't want me to be a part of that."