Don Lemon has a well-documented history of on-air gaffes that have made the out CNN anchor something of a controversial figure. Now, a new report reveals behind-the-scenes mistreatment of female colleagues and other questionable behavior.
In the wake of the controversy in February surrounding Lemon’s on-air remarks about Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, which were widely criticized as misogynist, Variety reports that Lemon has a history of clashing with female colleagues, dating back to 2008 when he co-anchored CNN’s Live From with Kyra Phillips. Sources told the magazine that he was so incensed when Phillips was tapped to report from Iraq that he tore up pictures and notes that were on and inside his co-anchor’s desk. More disturbingly, two threatening text messages from an unknown number that Phillips received were later reportedly traced back to Lemon.
“Now you’ve crossed the line, and you’re going to pay for it,” one of the messages reportedly read.
A CNN spokesperson said that the network could not corroborate the story. “Don says the alleged incident never occurred and that he was never notified of any investigation,” they said.
The report also said Lemon called one female producer fat to her face and mocked fellow CNN star Nancy Grace on-air. During an editorial call, Lemon also allegedly suggested that Soledad O’Brien was not Black after she landed a gig hosting the network’s 2008 Black in America docuseries.
“Don has long had a habit of saying idiotic and inaccurate things, so it sounds pretty on brand for him,” O’Brien, who was not present on the call, told Variety.
Lemon is also said to have openly dated a “fresh-out-of-college” male CNN staffer sometime around 2007, when he was 41 and the staffer was 22, despite the fact that dating junior employees was frowned upon at the time.
Another source described Lemon’s off-air behavior as “diva-like.” His complaints on social media about fellow anchor Anderson Cooper getting more airtime during coverage of Michael Jackson’s 2009 memorial led to what one former senior CNN executive called a “come-to-Jesus moment.”
“Don was told, ‘Look, you’ve got to address your behavior. Your performance as a reporter is great. It’s your behavior that’s gotta improve. It’s what’s going to derail you if you’re not careful,’” the former exec. said.
Former CNN consultant Goldie Taylor, who claims she was blacklisted from CNN after she criticized Lemon’s controversial 2013 comments about the Black community, said that she’s never surprised when Lemon gets into trouble. “It makes me neither happy nor sad to see him undermine his own success,” she said. “There was a time when it appeared that Black people were most often the subject of his ire. Now, it seems to me that when he says something offensive, there’s almost always a woman on the other side.”