“CNN This Morning” host Don Lemon did not address his recent comments about 2024 presidential hopeful and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley during his on-air return Wednesday. However, the anchor did issue an apology tweet to his colleagues and the network’s audience prior to the broadcast.
“I appreciate the opportunity to be back on @CNNThisMorning today,” he wrote. “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.”
Last week, Lemon and co-host Poppy Harlow were discussing Haley’s announcement to run for president in 2024 and her call for competency tests for presidents over the age of 75, when Lemon drew the conclusion that Haley should be careful when talking about prime age because, according to Google, she wouldn’t be considered to be in her prime.
“This whole talk about age makes me uncomfortable. I think it’s the wrong road to go down. She says people, you know, politicians are suddenly not in their prime,” he said during Thursday’s episode. “Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime. Sorry. When a woman is considered in her prime in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.”
Following his remark, Lemon issued a tweet saying he regretted making the “inartful and irrelevant” comment.
“A woman’s age doesn’t define her either personally or professionally,” he added. “I have countless women in my life who prove that every day.”
Haley fired back in her own tweet, writing: “Liberals can’t stand the idea of having competency tests for older politicians to make sure they can do the job. BTW it’s always the liberals who are the most sexist.”
During an editorial meeting call on Friday morning, CNN CEO Chris Licht called Lemon’s remarks “upsetting, unacceptable, and unfair to his co-hosts, and ultimately a huge distraction to the great work of this organization.”
In the same call, Lemon issued another another apology to CNN staffers for his remarks and also posted a separate apology on social media.
An individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap on Sunday that the “CNN This Morning” anchor was “gutted” by the comments he made — and felt that his comments “let women down.” Lemon was absent from “CNN This Morning” on Friday after taking a scheduled day off and chose to extend his vacation time through the Presidents Day holiday.
Licht told staffers in a statement on Monday that after having a “frank and meaningful conversation” with Lemon, he agreed to participate in “formal training.” Without going into detail about what that “formal training” would involve, Licht added: “It is important to me that CNN balances accountability with 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.”
The controversy surrounding Lemon is the latest hurdle for the morning program, which has struggled in the ratings and is now on its second executive producer. Prior to being reassigned “CNN This Morning,” Lemon hosted the CNN evening news program “Don Lemon Tonight,” from 2014 to 2022.