Don Lemon refuted former colleague Brooke Baldwin's assertion that CNN is male-dominated, saying the network has "plenty of women in positions of power" and maybe the issue for Baldwin was that she didn't take enough initiative with CNN president Jeff Zucker.
During a "Sway" podcast chat, Kara Swisher asked Lemon who should replace Zucker when he departs the network at the end of the year and whether it should be a woman, given what Baldwin said just before she herself exited the new giant.
"I think we have had women who have run the network. I mean, Janelle Rodriguez ran part of the network," he said, before adding that his executive producer is also a woman, as is colleague Erin Burnett's.
"So we have plenty of women in positions of power in the network," he went on. "Now, at the executive ranks, I don't know enough about the organizational chart to tell you that, but listen, my CMO is a woman, Allison Gollust, and she is a huge influence on the network, so should the network be run by a woman? Of course, a very qualified woman. I would love to see a woman run the network."
Swisher continued to push Lemon about Baldwin, with whom he used to host segments for the network's popular New Year's Eve special. After finding out that Lemon was grabbing birthday lunch with his boss after their podcast taping, Swisher mused, "You're having lunch with Zucker. I'm guessing she's not."
"Well, I don't know who... I mean I actually called him up and said, 'Would you like to have lunch?' I mean, she can do the same thing," he replied, before adding that he and Zucker both attended Baldwin's wedding. Additionally, he clarified, "I love Brooke. She's one of my best friends."
He also said that while he isn't aware of his coworkers' salaries, he doesn't believe the network is a "boys' club," even though every show in the entire lineup from 8 p.m. ET to 11 p.m. is anchored by men. (The same is not true for MSNBC and Fox News, where Rachel Maddow and Laura Ingraham have primetime programs, respectively.)
Baldwin opened up earlier in April about gender pay disparity at the network, but said "it's getting better." She announced in February that she would be leaving the network in the spring, and has since departed.
"The most influential anchors on our network -- the highest-paid -- are men. My bosses, my executives, are men. The person who oversees CNN Dayside is a man and my executive producer for 10 years is a man, so I've been surrounded by a lot of men," Baldwin said while reflecting on her decade at the network during an appearance on Ms. Magazine's "On the Issues" podcast.