News (USA)

Don Lemon will return to “CNN This Morning” after controversial remarks about women

CNN anchor Don Lemon
CNN anchor Don Lemon Photo: Screenshot

Don Lemon will return to CNN This Morning on Wednesday, following controversial remarks he made on air about Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley last Thursday.

“I sat down with Don and had a frank and meaningful conversation. He has agreed to participate in formal training, as well as continuing to listen and learn. We take this situation very seriously,” CNN CEO Chris Licht said in a Monday night memo, according to Variety. “It is important to me that CNN balances accountability with fostering a culture in which people can own, learn and grow from their mistakes. To that end, Don will return to CNN This Morning on Wednesday.”

Lemon has been absent from the cable news network’s flagship morning show since February 16, when he made comments on air about Haley which many viewed as sexist.

“She says people, you know, politicians or something are not in their prime,” Lemon said. “Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime, sorry. A woman is considered to be in her prime in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.”

Co-anchors Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, with whom Lemon has a reportedly tense working relationship, were visibly stunned by his comments.

“I’m not saying I agree with that,” Lemon continued. “I think she has to be careful about saying that, you know, politicians aren’t in their prime.”

“Are you talking about ‘prime’ for childbearing?” Harlow asked. “Or are you talking about ‘prime’ for being president?”

“Don’t shoot the messenger,” Mr. Lemon replied. “I’m just saying what the facts are. Google it.”

Later in the show, CNN correspondent Audie Cornish also pushed back, telling Lemon that “the idea of ‘prime’ that you Google on the internet” relates to “sexual and reproductive prime.” Lemon, however, claimed he was responding to Haley’s call for mandatory competency tests for politicians over the age of 75.

Lemon was absent from CNN This Morning the following day, though he was already reportedly scheduled to take the day off and had not been formally suspended. But he did dial into Friday’s morning editorial call, during which Licht said that “His remarks were upsetting, unacceptable and unfair to his co-hosts, and ultimately a huge distraction to the great work of this organization.”

During the same call, Lemon delivered a six-minute apology to his colleagues. “I am sorry. I did not mean to hurt anyone. I did not mean to offend anyone,” he said according to the New York Times, adding that “the people I’m closest to in this organization are women.”

Lemon also apologized via a Twitter post on Thursday afternoon. “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,” he wrote. “A woman’s age doesn’t define her either personally or professionally. I have countless women in my life who prove that every day.”

Haley retweeted Lemon’s apology, commenting that she is not “calling for competency tests for Sexist middle-aged CNN anchors; only for people who make our laws and are 75+.”

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