After hosting CNN’s nightly newscast for years, Don Lemon moved from Prime Time to mornings in September 2022. The move had many right-wingers claiming that Lemon, an outspoken critic of Donald Trump, had been demoted, but that was hardly the case.
News of another potential rift between Lemon and CNN emerged on April 24, 2023, after Lemon took to Twitter to announce that he would no longer be working at CNN. So, what happened to Lemon?
Here's a look back at the moves Lemon has made within the company and why he's leaving CNN.
What happened to Don Lemon at CNN? Host addressed rumors himself.
During the taping of the Sept. 15, 2022, episode of his show, Don Lemon Tonight, Lemon responded to the rumors that he had been demoted. The move wasn't a demotion but something he chose to do, Lemon told viewers.
“I was presented with an opportunity that I can’t pass up at this network,” Lemon said. “And we have a new boss who is a morning-show impresario, and he wants a morning show that will kick off the editorial direction of the network every single day, and I am honored that he would ask me to do it.”
Lemon moved from Don Lemon Tonight to a new CNN morning show that replaced CNN’s New Day. Lemon worked alongside Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins. The new morning show “offers a smart, bold, and refreshing way to start the day,” CNN CEO Chris Licht said in a statement.
CNN CEO Chris Licht asked Lemon to move to the morning show.
In June 2022, former CBS Morning executive producer Chris Licht was hired as CNN’s new CEO. Since joining CNN, Licht has made several changes at the network, including shutting down the CNN+ streaming service and directing staff to stop referring to Trump’s claims the 2020 election was stolen as "the big lie."
Some claim that Licht wants to move CNN more to the right of the political spectrum, but Lemon disputed those claims.
“This is not someone saying, ‘You must move to the right, Don Lemon. And you must not be so — give so much of your perspective.’ None of that has happened,” Lemon said. “All of that is fodder for Twitter, which is not real. So stop it. I was not demoted, none of that. This is an opportunity. This is a promotion.”
Lemon has spent over 30 years in broadcast journalism and has been at CNN for 17 years. In 2014, he became the host of CNN Tonight, which was renamed Don Lemon Tonight in 2021. For the brief time the CNN+ streaming service was around, Lemon hosted two episodes of the Don Lemon Show on the service before it shut down.
Don Lemon is at odds with Trump and his followers.
Lemon isn’t a fan of Trump, and the feeling appears to be mutual. In a January 2018 broadcast, Lemon opened the show with “This is CNN Tonight, I’m Don Lemon. The president of the United States is racist.” Lemon’s criticism of Trump has made him a target of the former president and his followers. In November 2018, an Arkansas man was arrested and charged with threatening to kill Lemon.
Before Trump's Twitter account was suspended (it has since been reactivated), he tweeted that Lemon was “the dumbest man on television.” Trump also insulted NBA player LeBron James in his tweet, saying that Lemon “made LeBron look smart, which isn’t easy to do,” reports Heavy.
Don Lemon was fired from CNN in April 2023.
Despite the close relationship Lemon seemed to have with CNN executives, on April 24, 2023, he announced via Twitter that he had been fired. The tweet read, "I was informed this morning by my agent that I have been terminated by CNN. After 17 years at CNN I would have thought that someone in management would have the decency to tell me directly."
The tweet continued, "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 the network. It is clear that there are some large issues at play.” Perhaps Lemon's opinions of Trump have clashed one too many times with that of Licht's.
Ironically, news of Lemon's firing came around the same time word broke that Tucker Carlson left his Fox News post.