Don Lemon will undergo training and return to CNN airwaves on Wednesday following the fallout over his sexist and misogynistic remarks about women’s age and their “prime.”
“To my CNN Colleagues, 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,” CNN boss Chris Licht wrote in a memo sent to network staff on Monday evening. “We take this situation very seriously.”
The network chief added: “It is important to me that CNN balances accountability with a 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.”
Licht and Lemon met on Monday afternoon, hours before the memo went out to staff, sources told The Daily Beast.
Some CNN insiders were less than impressed with the punishment—or lack thereof—that Lemon received for his on-air antics. “CNN should’ve been focusing on Kaitlan and Poppy instead of Don,” one network source told The Daily Beast. Another network insider lamented that Lemon “keeps embarrassing the network.”
A third CNN staffer noted how last week’s “prime” remarks constituted just the “latest insult” from Lemon—part of a “pattern” in what the anchor “repeatedly says about women and to them.” Late last year, Lemon similarly drew public outcry (and drew the ire of his female co-hosts) by arguing on-air that the U.S. men’s soccer team should be paid more than the women’s team because they are “more interesting to watch.”
The ordeal began last Thursday when the 56-year-old anchor remarked on-air that former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a 2024 Republican presidential aspirant, is past her “prime” because she is no longer in her “twenties and thirties.”
Despite co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins noticeably pushing back, the longtime CNN personality doubled down, including in a follow-up segment with colleague Audie Cornish. “I’m going to continue to be who I am,” he added at one point.
Lemon eventually offered a public apology on Twitter. “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.”
But the apology only seemed to prompt further backlash across the political spectrum and within CNN’s ranks. And so Lemon—who was moved from a solo primetime slot to a co-hosting morning gig a few months ago—was then forced to issue a groveling apology to his CNN colleagues the following morning during an editorial meeting.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. I did not mean to offend anyone,” he said. “What I said came out wrong and I wish I hadn’t said it. I believe women of any age can do anything they set their minds to. The people I am closest to in this organization are women.”
Lemon had a scheduled day off on Friday but was benched on Monday from CNN This Morning, as The Daily Beast reported. “There are ongoing conversations about Don’s future,” a person familiar with the matter told Confider about him being off the air to start this week. “He is a constant distraction.”
And while Licht rebuked Lemon for his remarks about Haley, calling it “upsetting, unacceptable, and unfair to his co-hosts,” it now appears that Lemon has been given a proverbial slap on the wrist.