CNN’s Don Lemon Denies Accusations of Reckless Behavior and Misogyny

The embattled cable news anchor says a Variety report is “riddled with patently false anecdotes and no concrete evidence”

Don Lemon
Don Lemon (CNN)

Don Lemon has denied a report accusing the longtime CNN anchor of reckless behavior and misogyny.

“The story, which is riddled with patently false anecdotes and no concrete evidence, is entirely based on unsourced, unsubstantiated, 15-year-old anonymous gossip,” a spokesperson for Lemon told TheWrap. “It’s amazing and disappointing that Variety would be so reckless.”

The report, published Wednesday, unearthed allegations originating from the cable news anchor’s sprawling career at CNN, including accusations of mocking female staffers and “diva-like” behavior, leading up to Lemon’s recent controversy after declaring that Nikki Haley was not a viable presidential candidate as the 51-year-old “isn’t in her prime.”

Citing anonymous sources, the report chronicled rising tension between Lemon and Kyra Phillips, hi co-anchor on CNN’s “Live From” weekday show in the late 2000s. It stated that a “Live From” producer and a newsroom supervisor had to pull Lemon off the air during a commercial break on more than one occasion because of the anchor’s behavior. It also documented an incident after Phillips had received an assignment in Iraq that Lemon coveted where he reacted to the news “by tearing up pictures and notes on top of and inside Phillips’ desk in the news pod they shared, according to two sources who worked there at the time.”

Phillips declined to comment on the allegations to Variety, while a CNN spokesman told the outlet that “Don says the incident never occurred and that he was never notified of any investigation. CNN cannot corroborate the alleged events from 15 years ago.”

The story also reported instances in which Lemon disrespected commentator Nancy Grace on the air and Soledad O’Brien during an editorial meeting attended by roughly 30 staffers.

He was upset that O’Brien had landed a hosting spot for CNN’s “Black in America” series, which launched in 2008. During the editorial meeting, Lemon reportedly suggested O’Brien isn’t Black.

O’Brien, who wasn’t present, told Variety, “Don has long had a habit of saying idiotic and inaccurate things, so it sounds pretty on brand for him.”

CNN responded to that allegation saying that “Don, Soledad, and others, have in the past correctly referred to her Afro-Cuban heritage as it is a unique part of her personal story. But Don denies making any related remark in a derogatory way.”

Variety’s report comes on the heels of the controversy surrounding Lemon’s on-air remarks about Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley earlier this year. Lemon stated that Haley “is not in her prime,” and when challenged added that a woman is “said to be in her prime in her 20s, 30s and maybe 40s.” According to multiple reports, his co-anchors Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins were furious, as was CNN CEO Chris Licht.

“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. We take this situation very seriously,” Licht said in a statement obtained by The Daily Beast on Feb. 20.

After a brief break from the air, Lemon returned to his post at “CNN This Morning” and issued an apology for his statements on Twitter.

“I appreciate the opportunity to be back on @CNNThisMorning today,” he wrote on Feb. 22. “To my network, my colleagues and our incredible audience — I’m sorry. I’ve heard you, I’m learning from you, and I’m committed to doing better. See you soon.”