Don Lemon used to have a golden boy reputation as a star – and was recognized as one of broadcasting’s first openly gay black anchors. But a string of controversies has tarnished Lemon’s persona, and his career – most notably, last February’s gaffe involving Nikki Haley.
What Did Don Lemon Do?
In February, Lemon said on-air that presidential candidate Nikki Haley was “past her prime” and that “a woman is considered to be in their prime in their 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.” The comments were not well received. Lemon was booted from his primetime spot, hosting “CNN This Morning,” and apparently apologized on a staff-wide call. But the Haley comments were not Lemon’s first incident. As per PEOPLE, Lemon has a history of controversial incidents.
Lemon and Controversy Are Old Friends
In 2019, bartender Dustin Hice accused Lemon of assault. A lawsuit was filed, and a trial commenced. Then Hice withdrew his accusations, and the case was dismissed. Lemon consistently and wholeheartedly denied the allegations that he had physically and verbally assaulted Hice during a night out in the Hamptons.
After the fact, a legal decision found that Hice “offered contradictory testimony during an earlier deposition about the case, and that he engaged in “egregious conduct” after filing the suit,” which included “selectively destroying text messages, deleting social media posts … and concealing unfavorable witnesses.”
In 2022, Lemon’s female co-hosts criticized him on-air for his comments that men’s soccer is “more interesting to watch” than women’s soccer. “The men’s team makes more money,” Lemon said. “If they make more money, then they should get more money. The men’s team makes more money because people are more interested in the men.”
In 2023, reports emerged that “Lemon had argued with his co-host [Kaitlan] Collins during off-camera moments, during which he allegedly accused her of interrupting him on-air.” According to a source, “Don screamed at Kaitlan, who was visibly upset and ran out of the studio.” The incident was reportedly one of three similar blow-ups.
Last month’s Nikki Haley incident was Lemon’s most controversial, however.
“This whole talk about age makes me uncomfortable,” Lemon said on-air, referring to comments Haley made proposing that politicians over the age of 75 be “forced to take mental competency tests.” Lemon continued, “I think it’s the wrong road to go down … [Haley] says … politicians are not in their prime. Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime. Sorry. A woman is considered to be in their prime in 20s and 30s and maybe 40s … that’s not according to me … if you Google ‘When is a woman in her prime,’ it’ll say 20s, 30s, and 40s. don’t necessarily – I’m not saying I agree with that.”
Haley’s comments were, of course, about geriatric mental acuity; that Lemon got from there, to female cosmetics, in like one sentence, was not appreciated. The backlash was intense, prompting a near-immediate apology.
“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,” Lemon tweeted. “A woman’s age doesn’t define her either personally or professionally. I have countless women in my life who prove that every day.”
Lemon was removed from “CNN This Morning” for three consecutive broadcasts and agreed to undergo formal “training.” But for now, Lemon is still with CNN. Would another anchor be given such wide latitude?
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.