In February, longtime CNN anchor Don Lemon sparked a media controversy when he said on air that presidential candidate Nikki Haley had “done her best.” Lemon’s remarks — which included the claim that “A woman is seen as a woman in her 20s, 30s and maybe 40s” — resulted in the Emmy winner being briefly benched as Co-host of CNN This Morning. the anchor reportedly apologized for his actions in a cast-wide call.
But the Haley incident is just the tip of Lemon’s misogynistic and sexist behavior at CNN, according to a new report. Species published on Wednesday. The story, which includes statements from more than a dozen sources who currently or previously worked at CNN, allege that Lemon had a history of disrespecting women at the cable news giant, including on-air talent Soledad O’Brien, Nancy Grace and Kyra. Phillips, who have all since left the company.
One of the most shocking stories in the report alleges that Lemon sent harassing and threatening texts to Phillips when the two co-hosted CNN’s “Live From” weekday show together in 2008. According to Variety, sources claimed that tension between the two grew after work. together for months, and producers and editorial supervisors had to pull Lemon down several times during commercial breaks for provocative behavior.
Her behavior towards Lemon Phillips reportedly worsened after her co-host was assigned to report in Iraq, which she wanted. Sources told Variety that while Phillips was away, he tore up pictures and notes on Phillips’ desk at the company’s office. When Phillips returned, Lemon allegedly sent her threatening text messages from an unknown number, warning her, “Now you’ve crossed the line and you’re going to pay for it.”
After Lemon was identified as the sender, a human resources investigation was launched; The results were never disclosed to the staff, but she was dropped from co-anchoring “Live From” and moved to weekends. Phillips declined to comment to Variety, but a CNN spokesperson shared the following statement with the news outlet: “Don says the alleged incident never happened and he was never notified of any investigation. CNN cannot confirm the alleged events of 15 years ago.
In addition to the Phillips incident, sources told Variety that Lemon was often cruel to the women he worked with, such as calling the producer fat or mocking Grace live; a source who witnessed the incident said, “that was the beginning of when you knew Don was kind of volatile and didn’t say nice things about women.”
In 2008, after O’Brien landed a job hosting CNN’s “Black in America” documentaries, Lemon allegedly suggested that the anchor was not Black during an editorial phone call that he was not involved in (O’Brien’s father is white, while his mother is Afro-Cuban). O’Brien, who now hosts his own show for Hearst Television, told Variety that “Don has a long history of saying idiotic and inaccurate things, so this sounds pretty good to him.”
A CNN spokesperson told Variety that “Don, Soledad and others in the past have correctly referenced her Afro-Cuban heritage as a unique part of her personal story. But Don denies making any disparaging comments about it.”
The story also cites Goldie Taylor, a former CNN consultant who guested on Lemon’s show, who says she was blacklisted for criticizing the host after making comments during a 2013 broadcast about “how the black community could fix your problems”. “It never surprises me when Don gets into trouble,” he told Variety. “It makes me neither happy nor sad to see him undermine his own success. There was a time when blacks seemed to be the most frequent targets of anger. Now it seems like when he says something offensive, there’s almost always a woman on the other side.”
A CNN spokesperson told Variety that they do not know why the network cut Taylor. CNN told IndieWire that all of its statements to Variety listed in the report are accurate.
In addition to Lemon’s misogynistic behavior toward female co-workers, the story also claims that early in his career, before his 2011 release, he openly dated a younger co-worker, despite the network being “sad” — Lemon was 41 and the co-worker was 22 and directly at the university. More generally, the sources said he engaged in unprofessional behavior by skipping editorial calls, often showing up late for work, or complaining that other reporters were getting more airtime.
Sources also pointed to the 2021 incident involving Jussie Smollett, who testified in court that Lemon texted him that Chicago police doubted his story of being the victim of a hate crime as a situation that led to Lemon should have been fired from CNN. A CNN spokesperson told Variety that the network has reviewed the situation and determined that Lemon, who refused to turn over his phone records to authorities, acted appropriately in trying to book Smollett on his show.
During his current stint on “CNN This Morning,” which began in November, sources say Lemon had tensions with his two co-stars, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, especially after he made jokes like claiming the U.S. man your national football team must be involved. paid more than the women’s team that won the title. Sources claimed that Haley’s comments caused Harlow to flee the set in anger. Lemon is said to be attending CNN’s official training after the incident.
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