Don Lemon called out of work on Friday after a heated exchange on-air on Thursday. Many viewers took note a tense moment on CNN This Morning when Lemon and his co-host Kaitlan Collins tried to speak over each other. According to a report by Puck News, this rattled some staffers behind the scenes at CNN.
Lemon and his co-anchors had just heard a report from a correspondent in the field when their awkward moment hit on Thursday. They were reporting on Brittney Griner's return home to the U.S., and Lemon was reading some last-minute facts and details to close out the segment. As he did so, Collins tried repeatedly to cut in, apparently intending to make the recitation more conversational. Lemon practically ignored her and powered through the notes, which struck many viewers at home as odd.
They weren't the only ones. Sources close to the production of CNN's new morning show told Puck News that staffers raised their eyebrows when Lemon called out of work the next day. Some thought that his last-minute absence was a sign of the continued tension between him and Collins, though in fairness others chalked it up to his busy travel schedule. Lemon had attended the White House Christmas party in Washington D.C. on Thursday night, and may not have recovered in time for the early morning production the next day.
The report also speculates on Lemon's state of mind a few months into his tenure on This Morning. Lemon was transferred from a primetime evening news hour to the mornings in September as a part of the new network president Chris Licht's strategy for revitalizing the brand. At the time, Lemon refuted concerns that he was being "demoted."
"And for all of those that are out there saying, 'Oh he moved me without my...' – he asked me and I said yes. I could have said no," Lemon explained. "I was not demoted. None of that. This is an opportunity for me to create something around me and I get to work with two great ladies, who you know."
Still, according to Puck News on-screen talent at CNN and other cable news outlets are bitter about cost-cutting efforts, especially where they seem to detract from traditional signifiers of journalistic status. Meanwhile, Lemon and Collins' tension has viewers on social media feeling awkward at best. So far, Lemon and Collins have not commented publicly on the strange moment.