CNN Fires Anchor Don Lemon in the Wake of Sexist Comments, Reported Mistreatment of Colleagues

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  • CNN fired anchor Don Lemon after 17 years at the news network.
  • Lemon's departure comes in the wake of sexist comments and reports that he mistreated women he worked with during his tenure at CNN.
  • The primetime anchor's firing is the latest high-profile media exit after Tucker Carlson left Fox News and Jeff Shell parted ways with NBCUniversal.

CNN fired anchor Don Lemon on Monday after 17 years at the network, in the wake of sexist on-air comments and reports that he mistreated women he worked with during his tenure there.

The announcement came about an hour after Fox News said that right-wing prime-time host Tucker Carlson is leaving the cable network immediately. It also came one day after NBCUniversal said CEO Jeff Shell has left his role due to an "inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company."

Lemon, who hosted "CNN This Morning," said his agent informed him about his termination Monday morning. Lemon said he was "stunned" by the news.

"I would have thought that someone in management would have had the decency to tell me directly," Lemon said in a Twitter post Monday. "At no time was I ever given any indication that I would not be able to continue to do the work I have loved at this network."

Lemon added that "it is clear that there are some larger issues at play," without offering more details.

He appeared on air Monday morning as normal before releasing his statement.

CNN, a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery, later Monday disputed Lemon's account of his departure. The network called Lemon's comments "inaccurate," saying he was "offered an opportunity to meet with management but instead released a statement on Twitter."

Shortly after Lemon first tweeted that he was fired, the network's CEO, Chris Licht, said the anchor and CNN "parted ways."

"Don will forever be a part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years," the network said in a statement. "We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors."

CNN added that the morning show Lemon hosted alongside anchors Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins would continue to run. The program has been on air for nearly six months, and the network said it is "committed to its success."

The announcement comes after Lemon faced backlash in February for his remarks about Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley shortly after she announced a bid for the White House.

"Nikki Haley isn't in her prime, sorry. A woman is considered to be in their prime in 20s and 30s and maybe 40s," Lemon said on the air of the 51-year-old Haley.

That comment earned him a rebuke from Licht and calls from women's rights advocates to have him fired.

Lemon has since apologized for his remarks about Haley.

Licht announced in late February that Lemon would undergo formal training following the sexist comments. The network head also told Semafor earlier this month that both CNN and Lemon have "moved on" from the issue.

Lemon's firing also follows a lengthy Variety story this month that alleged the anchor had a history of threatening and making offensive remarks to female staffers at CNN.

The report was based on more than a dozen former and current colleagues of Lemon, Variety said. Most of them spoke anonymously to the outlet. 

Variety's report says that, among other incidents, Lemon got angry when he was passed over for a reporting assignment in favor of former CNN correspondent Kyra Phillips in 2008. Lemon had been anchoring CNN's "Live From" program at the time.

Phillips later received two threatening texts from an unknown sender, and CNN leadership eventually traced them back to Lemon, according to Variety.

A spokesperson for Lemon criticized the article at the time it was published, telling NBC News in a statement that it was "amazing and disappointing that Variety would be so reckless."

The spokesperson told NBC that Variety's story is "riddled with patently false anecdotes and no concrete evidence, is entirely based on unsourced, unsubstantiated, 15-year-old anonymous gossip."

Lemon has been with CNN since September 2006. He has served as the prime-time anchor of "Don Lemon Tonight" for more than eight years, the network's website says. 

Lemon joined CNN after serving as an anchor at NBC Chicago. He also was a correspondent for NBC News, the "TODAY" show and "NBC Nightly News."

His termination comes more than a year after CNN fired former prime-time anchor Chris Cuomo. The network's decision followed an investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James that revealed how Cuomo helped his brother and former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo respond to sexual harassment allegations. 

Cuomo took legal action against CNN last year, seeking $125 million for wrongful termination. That case is still pending.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC and CNBC.

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