Don Lemon Had On-Air Blow-up With Presidential Candidate Ahead of Firing

CNN fired Don Lemon on Monday, just months after joining the network's morning show crew. His tenure on CNN This Morning was filled with one controversy after the other, most notably his Nikki Haley comments in February. However, one of the final strikes against him may have been his intense interview with entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who is running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, last week.

Ramaswamy visited the CNN This Morning set on April 19. Lemon told the Woke Inc. author it was "infuriating" to hear him focus on guns when talking about civil rights. "You're making people think that the Civil War was fought for Black people-only for Black people to get guns," Lemon told Ramaswamy, notes The Daily Beast. "It's reductive and I think it's insulting. There are a whole plethora of reasons for the Civil War."

Ramaswamy disagreed, telling Lemon, "With due respect, I find your explanation reductive and actually insulting." He continued, "Black people secured their freedoms after the Civil War – and it's a historical fact, Don, just study it – only after their Second Amendment rights were secured."

Lemon grew frustrated. "The whole reason that the civil rights movement happened was because Black people did not secure their freedoms after the Civil War," he said. It appears that producers were trying to diffuse the situation, as Lemon could be heard talking to them. "I cannot keep a thought if you guys are talking in my ear," he told producers.

Later, Lemon told Ramaswamy, "When you are in Black skin and you live in this country, then you can disagree with me." Ramaswamy disagreed. "Don, I think we have to be able to talk about these issues in the open regardless of the color of our skin. Black Americans today, to say that, compare that to 1865 and 1964," Ramaswamy said. During the entire exchange, Lemon's co-anchor Poppy Harlow watched on silently.

Sources told The New York Times Monday that the interview left CNN executives "exasperated." CNN's bookers also reportedly discovered that guests did not want to be interviewed by Lemon. He continued appearing on CNN This Morning through the end of last week, but he was missing Monday. Moments after Fox News announced Tucker Carlson's ousting, Lemon coincidentally announced he was leaving CNN, with an official CNN statement coming soon after.

"CNN and Don have parted ways," Chris Licht, the new CNN chairman whose idea it was to move Lemon to the morning in the first place, said in a statement. "Don will forever be a part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years. We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors."

In his own statement, Lemon wrote that he was "stunned" and completely surprised by the network's decision. CNN disputed this, saying he was "offered an opportunity to meet with management but instead released a statement on Twitter." Lemon has reportedly hired Hollywood litigator Bryan Freedman, and his contract runs through 2026, according to the Times' sources.