Don Lemon Exits CNN; Host Says He’s Been Terminated By Network After 17 Years


Don Lemon is out at CNN after 17 years.

The morning show host said that he was informed by his agent that he had been terminated. Lemon had co-hosted CNN This Morning on Monday.

The network said that they have “parted ways.” CNN said that CNN This Morning, co-hosted by Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, will continue.

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The news came just minutes after Fox News Media announced that Tucker Carlson and Fox News Channel “have mutually agreed to part ways.” CNN and Fox News each announced the news on their airwaves.

“I am stunned,” Lemon wrote on Twitter. “After 17 years at CNN I would have thought someone in management would have had the decency to tell me directly. At no time was I ever given any indication that I would not be able to continue to do the work I have loved at the network. It is clear that there are some larger issues at play. With that said, I want to thank my colleagues and the many teams I have worked with for an incredible run. They are the most talented journalists in the business, and I wish them all the best.”

After that tweet, CNN said in a statement: “Don Lemon’s statement about this morning’s events is inaccurate. He was offered an opportunity to meet with management but instead released a statement on Twitter.”

Lemon was said to have had “no idea” that his dismissal was coming, especially since it looked as if he had weathered a recent furor over comments he made about Nikki Haley, as well as the upheaval from Discovery’s new ownership of the network. He has retained Bryan Freedman, the Los Angeles attorney who has previously handled the exits of other high profile news figures like Chris Cuomo and Megyn Kelly, according to a source. Freedman did not respond to request for comment about now representing Lemon, who has also retained a PR team.

Lemon was fired without cause and had a contract that lasted through the end of 2026, according to two sources.

The network initially announced the split with Lemon with a statement: “CNN and Don Lemon have parted ways. Don will forever be a part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years. We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors.”

Lemon was moved to the morning hours in November, paired with Harlow and Collins as part of a revamped morning show. The ratings, though, have been far from spectacular, and the network since has replaced its executive producer. But even as executives insist that the show needs more time to gestate, given morning viewing habits, Lemon has been the source of some controversy.

In February, in a conversation about presidential candidate Nikki Haley, Lemon drew an outcry for comments on when women were “in their prime.” He took several days off the show before apologizing and agreeing to participate in formal training.

Speculation over CNN’s decision also centered on other incidents. More recently, Lemon clashed with GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, in the type of heated debate that has been a hallmark of cable news, but is a contrast to a softer tone that the network has aimed for in the mornings.

In promoting the morning show, the network had emphasized the chemistry between the three hosts, yet there were reports of tense off air moments between Lemon and Collins. Executives were said to be concerned by research showing the situation was not improving. CNN This Morning averaged 359,000 viewers in its timeslot in the first quarter, with an additional 78,000 viewing on an HLN simulcast. That is a distant third to its cable news rivals, Fox & Friends and Morning Joe.

CNN’s John King revealed the Lemon news on his Inside Politics show. “Want to share with you some important news right here at our own network,” he said. “CNN’s Oliver Darcy is back with us – Oliver, what do you know?” Darcy began: “Uh, some shocking news again, John, in the world of cable news: Don Lemon and CNN have parted ways. This is according to a memo that was sent out to CNN employees just moments ago.” 

Lemon previously headlined his own nightly primetime show, known for its mix of news interviews, opinion and commentary. Lemon was at times outspoken and even polarizing in that role, but it was a different era for the network under then CEO Jeff Zucker.

CNN boss Chris Licht, who over at the network last May, said at a recent Semafor event that Lemon is “lightning rod, because he really came to prominence during an era where that was celebrated and encouraged in primetime. …That is not CNN’s primetime. The world has moved on from that. Don has moved on from that. Don was the first one to go, ‘I am tired of having to set my hair on fire every night. I want to try something new.’”

In addition to the morning show, Lemon had reported from Memphis earlier this year in the aftermath of the police beating death of Tyre Nichols.

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