Don Lemon, “gutted” by his on-air comments last week in which he said Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley “is not in her prime,” is taking Monday off while the controversy continues to swirl at CNN, TheWrap has learned.
According to an individual with knowledge, the “CNN This Morning” anchor is devastated by the comments he made – “gutted” was the word used – and feels that his comments “let women down.”
In a morning discussion last week with co-anchors Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, Lemon made the remark about Haley and even when challenged said that a woman is “said to be in her prime in her 20s, 30s and maybe 40s.” His co-anchors were furious, according to multiple reports, and so was CNN CEO Chris Licht.
Sara Sidner will fill in for Lemon, joining co-anchor Harlow in-studio with Collins reporting from Poland.
Lemon was absent from “CNN This Morning” this past Friday after taking a scheduled day off and chose to extend his vacation time through the Presidents Day holiday, the insider told TheWrap, adding that paparazzi have been following him while vacationing in Miami.
Lemon made the controversial comments this past Thursday, while discussing the former South Carolina governor’s speech announcing her 2024 presidential campaign and her promise to push for “mental competency tests” for politicians over the age of 75.
During an editorial meeting call the following 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 apologized to CNN staffers for his remarks and also posted an apology on social media.
“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 tweeted. “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.”
His apology, however, has not been convincing to many and the furor continued over the weekend. “Apologies are good for your ratings, but the fact that this thought even crossed your mind tells us a lot about you,” one person wrote on social media.
The dust-up comes as “CNN This Morning” clocks in the network’s lowest-rated morning show iteration in nearly a decade, as TheWrap has previously reported.
Since its Nov. 1, 2022 launch, “CNN This Morning” — hosted by Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins — has drawn in the lowest viewership among adults 25-54, the key demographic for cable news, and the second-lowest total viewership among each iteration of the network’s morning programming since “New Day” was launched in June 2013, according to Nielsen data.
According to a report by the Daily Beast Sunday, there are “ongoing conversations about Don’s future” at the cable news network, adding that he is “a constant distraction.”
Sharon Waxman contributed to this report.