Don Lemon Reportedly on Thin Ice at CNN: 'There May Not Be a Strike Three'
Don Lemon's latest controversy could be the last straw for the head honchos at CNN's parent company Warner Bros. Discovery. Lemon, 56, has been on thin ice since the Feb. 16 CNN This Morning broadcast, when he suggested that former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was no longer in her prime at 51. CNN CEO Chris Licht voiced support for Lemon, who returned to work on Wednesday after "formal training," but Warner Bos. Discovery CEO David Zaslav might be at the end of his rope with Lemon, reports Puck News.
Zaslav and Licht are friends, and it was Zaslav who pitched the idea to have Licht take over CNN, even though Licht had never overseen an entire network before. Licht, 51, came to CNN after show-running CBS' The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and he previously launched MSNBC's Morning Joe and rebooted CBS This Morning. Since joining CNN, Licht made revamping the network's morning show a priority. This involved moving Lemon from primetime to the morning and putting him between anchor Poppy Harlow and former White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.
So far, it hasn't worked out for the best. CNN This Morning's ratings have been dismal and Lemon's controversies haven't helped. His first strike came in December when Lemon got into an argument with Harlow and Collins because he felt the U.S. men's soccer team should continue to be paid more than the women's team, despite the women's team's international success. Lemon insisted this was a joke and walked back the comment.
In another incident after the Dec. 8 broadcast, Lemon allegedly "screamed" at Collins and accused her of interrupting her, sources told Page Six on Feb. 2. Licht was reportedly "appalled" by Lemon's behavior and told a producer to tell Lemon he needed to take a day off to "cool off."
The second on-air strike against Lemon is his "prime" scandal. While discussing Haley's comment that politicians over 75 should take mental competency tests, Lemon insisted that women are only in their primes in "their 20s and 30s and maybe 40s." He repeatedly stood by this claim, even as Harlow tried to jump in. Lemon then apologized on Twitter and missed the Feb. 17 episode due to a previously scheduled day off. He finally returned to CNN This Morning on Feb. 22.
"I sat down with Don and had a frank and meaningful conversation. He has agreed to participate in formal training, as well as continue to listen and learn. We take this situation very seriously," Licht wrote in a memo to employees on Feb. 20. He declined to say what Lemon's "formal training" entailed.
"It is important to me that CNN balances accountability with fostering a culture in which people can own, learn and grow from their mistakes," Licht continued. "To that end, Don will return to CNN This Morning on [Feb. 22]."
Licht came to Lemon's rescue in the "prime" scandal, but this could be the last chance Lemon gets. Sources told Puck News' Dylan Byers that Zaslav's team believes Lemon is the one squarely responsible for his messes. Considering Zaslav's team was initially wary about Lemon, Byers predicts Lemon can't afford to make another mistake.0comments