CNN Allows Don Lemon to Return on Wednesday—With Some Conditions

Chatty CNN anchor Don Lemon must complete unspecified formal training following another round of ill-advised comments about women

Don Lemon will return as anchor of CNN This Morning on Wednesday, albeit with some serious caveats.

According to CNN, network Chief Executive Chris Licht sent employees an email on Monday describing a “frank and meaningful” conversation with Lemon in which the loose-lipped anchor agreed to participate in what he called “formal training,” although he did not elaborate on what that would entail. “It is important to me that CNN balances accountability with… fostering a culture in which people can own, learn, and grow from their mistakes,” Licht stated. 

Lemon has been absent from the broadcast since last Thursday, after calling 51-year-old former South Carolina governor and Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley past her prime on air. What began as a classic foot-in-the-mouth moment quickly spiraled when Lemon doubled down on his claims, telling co-anchors Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, who challenged him, to “Google it… Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just saying what the facts are.” 

Though Lemon’s suddenly tone-deaf commentary was triggered by discussion of Haley’s own controversial demands for mandatory competency tests for older politicians, both CNN colleagues and audience members were quick to denounce Lemon’s comments as equally problematic. Harlow and Collins continued to push Lemon on air, while everyone from Patrician Heaton to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had words for the anchor. 

Haley, meanwhile, has seized the moment as a fundraising opportunity, peddling merchandise emblazoned with “Past My Prime?” as a campaign rallying cry.

Lemon’s comments even made it as far as the White House, when press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre sidestepped a question about the anchor’s bizarre bungle, using it as a chance to discuss the crucial role of women in the Biden administration. 

Though Lemon was quick to backtrack on his comments on Twitter, calling his words “inartful” and “irrelevant”— and apologizing to colleagues in an editorial meeting, saying, “When I make a mistake, I own it. And I own this one as well”—the backlash went deep. According to the New York Times, Lemon was the subject of a tense editorial call, where Licht told staff, “His remarks were upsetting, unacceptable and unfair to his co-hosts, and ultimately a huge distraction to the great work of this organization.” 

Though Licht didn’t go into details regarding the training Lemon will have to undergo, according to the Los Angeles Times, a CNN representative said Lemon was committed to following network recommendations and resources.

This is not the first blemish on Lemon’s record as anchor. In December, Kaitlan Collins had to leave the set when Lemon screamed at her off-camera for allegedly interrupting him on air. And previously, in September, Lemon asked commentator S.E. Cupp if she had “mommy brain” when she lost her train of thought during an interview. 

While Lemon has dismissed rumors of his potential firing following this latest controversy, the show’s struggle for ratings may still leave prove to be an issue that no training can fix. 

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