Don Lemon Earned Millions Working at CNN — Why the Host and CNN Parted Ways

Former CNN anchor Don Lemon is one of the most influential African American LGBTQ people in media today. How much does he earn at CNN?

Danielle Letenyei - Author

Apr. 24 2023, Updated 4:12 p.m. ET

Don Lemon wearing a plaid jacket at the 15th Annual CNN Heroes: All-Star Tribute.
Source: Getty Images

Former CNN anchor Don Lemon is one of the most influential African American LGBTQ+ people in media today. How much was he earning at CNN?

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Lemon’s salary as a television journalist with CNN was $4 million. This helped Lemon grow his net worth to an estimated $12 million.

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Given Lemon's tenure with CNN, it isn't surprising that he was earning millions annually. However, his abrupt exit from CNN was a surprise. On April 24, 2022, Lemon announced via Twitter that he had been "terminated" from CNN without any notice.

Read on to learn more about who Lemon is and his career at CNN.

Don Lemon

CNN Journalist

Net worth: $12 Million

Don Lemon is an American television journalist who worked for CNN between 2006 and 2023. Lemon came out as gay in 2011 in his memoir, Transparent. A federal judge ruled in Lemon's favor in a lawsuit that accused him of sexual assault. Lemon's accuser, Dustin Hice, was ordered by the court to pay Lemon over $77,000 for legal fees and costs.

Birthdate: March 1, 1966

Birthplace: Baton Rouge, La.

Education: Louisiana State University

Brooklyn College

Fiancé: Tim Malone

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Who is Don Lemon?

Don Lemon wearing at black jacket and sunglasses to the Seventh Annual Blue Jacket Fashion Show at Moonlight Studios.
Source: Getty Images

Born and raised in Baton Rouge, La., Lemon attended Louisiana State University before finishing his bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism at Brooklyn College in New York. He started his career as an intern at the New York Fox affiliate WNYW.

“I always wanted to be a journalist, ever since I can remember as a kid,” Lemon told PinkNews in 2011. “For a while, I told people I wanted to be a lawyer. My dad was an attorney and suggested I become one as well, but once I saw people like Peter Jennings and Max Robinson on ABC’s World News Tonight, I was like: that’s what I want to do.”

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After college, Lemon bounced around television stations in St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, Birmingham, and New York City. He eventually went to work as an anchor and correspondent for NBC News, The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, and MSNBC. While at NBC, Lemon received the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award in 2002 for his reporting on the capture of the D.C. area sniper.

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Lemon joined CNN in 2006 after a three-year stint at the Chicago NBC affiliate WMAQ, where he won three Emmys for his reporting. While at CNN, Lemon reported on many breaking news stories, such as the trial of George Zimmerman, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the inauguration of President Barack Obama, and the death of Osama Bin Laden. He hosted CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, which was eventually renamed Don Lemon Tonight.

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In September 2022, Lemon transitioned from hosting his nighttime show to working on CNN This Morning alongside Kaitlan Collins and Poppy Harlow.

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In 2009, Ebony magazine named Lemon one of the 150 most influential African Americans in the world. He has also been listed as one of the most influential LGBTQ people in the media and the U.S. by LGBTQ publications The Advocate and Out.

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Who is Don Lemon dating?

Lemon openly admitted that he has known he was gay ever since he was a small child. He has also spoken publicly about being sexually molested as a child by a teenage boy who lived in his neighborhood.

Although Lemon knew he was gay for years, he came out publicly in his 2011 memoir, Transparent. He dedicated the book to Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student who committed suicide after his roommate outed him online.

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“If I hadn’t been asked to write a book, I think I would have come out publicly anyway, sooner or later. I was already out in my personal life and in my professional life too with those I had a personal connection with. I just hadn’t said or written the words publicly,” Lemon told PinkNews.

Lemon has been engaged to real estate agent Tim Malone since 2019. The couple has been together since 2017.

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Was Don Lemon sued for sexual assault?

The same year Lemon and Malone got engaged, Lemon was accused of assault and battery by New York bartender Dustin Hice.

Hice reportedly filed a lawsuit against Lemon for an alleged "demeaning, unprovoked, and offensive assault" in the Sag Harbor tavern where Hice worked. Lemon denied the accusations and, on March 31, a federal judge ordered Hice to pay Lemon over $77,000 in attorney fees and costs.

Why was Don Lemon fired from CNN?

News of Lemon being fired from CNN broke at the same time sources began reporting that Tucker Carlson left Fox News. While it is ironic to have two of the biggest names in broadcast journalism leave (or be forced out of) their positions at the same time, it isn't clear what drove CNN to fire Lemon or who the network plans on replacing him with.

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In his tweet, Lemon wrote, "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. 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.”

After Lemon released his statement, CNN's PR team tweeted, "Don Lemon’s statement about this morning’s events is inaccurate. He was offered an opportunity to meet with management but instead released a statement on Twitter."

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