OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
Don Lemon’s time at CNN may be drawing to a close after he upset staffers again last week following “sexist” remarks aimed at GOP presidential contender Nikki Haley.
Lemon criticized Haley on Thursday for endorsing “mandatory mental competency tests” for politicians who are 75 years or older, suggesting that Haley was no longer in her “prime.” Lemon referenced “Google” to support his contention that Haley, who is 51 years old, will face a difficult challenge in winning the presidency, as women are only considered to be in their prime during their “20s, 30s, and 40s.”
“I’m just saying what the facts are. Google it. Everybody at home, when is a woman in her prime, it says 20s, 30s and 40s,” he said to morning ho co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. “And I’m just saying Nikki Haley should be careful about saying that politicians are not in their prime, and they need to be in their prime when they serve. Because she wouldn’t be in her prime according to Google or whatever it is.”
The report said that Harlow left the set “furious” for a bathroom break and was followed by Collins.
“Chris isn’t happy and he has spoken to Don a couple times today,” a source told The Post. “Don knows it can’t happen again.”
Lemon took to Twitter later Thursday to tweet an apology of sorts.
“The reference I made to a woman’s ‘prime’ this morning was inartful and irrelevant, as colleagues and loved ones have pointed out, and I regret it. A woman’s age doesn’t define her either personally or professionally. I have countless women in my life who prove that every day,” he wrote.
In response, Haley mocked him, writing “To be clear, I am NOT calling for competency tests for sexist middle-aged CNN anchors; only for people who make our laws and are 75+.”
To be clear, I am NOT calling for competency tests for Sexist middle-aged CNN anchors; only for people who make our laws and are 75+. https://t.co/wvUNCcNdVt
— Nikki Haley (@NikkiHaley) February 16, 2023
This follows reports earlier this month that Lemon rattled Collins as well as the crew following an off-camera confrontation with her. Reports said he “screamed” at her for allegedly interrupting him on the air.
A CNN insider told Fox News Digital that Licht was “pissed” at Lemon’s “unforced error,” saying the network CEO is “more sensitive” to how staffers have reacted to the comments. And other insiders told The Post that they believe it’s time for Lemon to go.
“He has got to go,” a CNN insider told The Post. “He is hurting the brand. Women aren’t even focused on the sexism — it’s the damage to CNN.”
“Everyone is pissed about it,” a second CNN source told the outlet in reference to Lemon’s attention-grabbing gaffes. “It makes us the story, and it hurts us.”
A transcript of a CNN company call following the on-air sexism showed that the network CEO Chris Licht chastised Lemon after the remark.
“He said he was sorry two minutes into the call,” one source close to the situation said of Lemon. “It was very self-centered and he lied. It was not his idea to apologize. They made him do it.”
Following his controversial comments about Haley’s age and abilities, Lemon was noticeably absent from the “CNN This Morning” show the next day. So, too, was Harlow, who traveled to Salt Lake City to cover the NBA All-Star weekend festivities. This left only Collins in the New York studio, with Audie Cornish filling in for Lemon. Collins introduced Cornish at the start of the broadcast without elaborating on Lemon’s absence or mentioning the previous day’s controversy.
According to a source, Lemon started the Presidents’ Day weekend early and went to Miami for a pre-planned vacation. He is expected to return to the air on Tuesday.
The Post added:
Before he soaked up the Florida sunshine, Lemon began his phone call to staff by saying he was likely the first person “in the history” of CNN to apologize and that it was his idea to address the company.
Lemon went on to declare that “the people I am closest to in this organization are women,” and called out prominent journalists like Dana Bash, Erin Burnett and his “CNN This Morning” co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, whom he said he respects. He also mentioned his mother.
“He doubled-down by explaining his comments and then he said, ‘I’m friends with women so I can’t be sexist.’”