Don Lemon startled some colleagues on CNN’s morning show Thursday with his sexist implication that Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, at age 51, is considered past her prime.
The following day, Lemon was off the air. He took the “day off” from work, according to a colleague.
“Don has the day off,” CNN host Kaitlan Collins said at the top of the show. CNN host Audie Cornish, formerly of NPR, appeared to be filling in for Lemon.
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Lemon usually hosts “CNN This Morning” with Collins and with additional co-host Poppy Harlow, who reported from Utah on Friday morning.
Take a look —
We could call it Dunce Cap Day. Don Lemon's nose is in the corner. CNN says "Don has the day off." pic.twitter.com/dxMOCxai3l
— Tim Graham (@TimJGraham) February 17, 2023
Lemon was discussing Haley’s suggestion a day earlier that politicians over age 75 should be subject to mandatory mental competency tests. President Joe Biden is 80 while another GOP presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump, is 76.
“Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime, sorry,” Lemon said, explaining why he was “uncomfortable” with the age discussion. “When a woman is considered to be in her prime — in her 20s, 30s and maybe her 40s.”
“Prime for what?” Harlow replied.
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Lemon said that if you look it up on Google, a woman is considered to be in her prime at those ages. Harlow tried to clarify what Lemon was referencing: “I think we need to qualify. Are you talking about prime for childbearing or are you talking about prime for being president?”
“Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just saying what the facts are,” Lemon replied. “Google it.”
Harlow reportedly stormed off the set after Lemon’s remark. The New York Post ran a front-page headline saying, “LEMON SQUEEZED.”
He brought up the subject again an hour later, when Cornish joined the discussion as a commentator. Like Harlow said earlier, Cornish said the idea of “prime” that Lemon was referring to was about reproductive years, and didn’t concern mental health and aging.
“She’s in her prime for running for office,” Cornish said of Haley, who announced her candidacy Tuesday. “Political prime is what we’re talking about.”
Later Thursday, Lemon issued a statement saying he regretted his “inartful and irrelevant” references to a woman’s prime age.
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“A woman’s age doesn’t define her either personally or professionally,” Lemon wrote on Twitter in an apology. “I have countless women in my life who prove that every day.”
There was no immediate comment from CNN leaders on Lemon’s future at the company. CNN chief executive Chris Licht launched the network’s new morning show in November, after Lemon was removed from his struggling primetime show.
Don Lemon: "Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime. Sorry, when a woman is considered to be in her prime in her 20s, and 30s, and maybe 40s…"
Poppy Harlow: "Are you talking about prime for like child bearing?"
"Don’t shoot the messenger! I’m just saying what the facts are! Google it!" pic.twitter.com/n1HmtkWTpl
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) February 16, 2023
Haley tweeted out a video of the CNN exchange on Thursday, saying “Liberals can’t stand the idea of having competency tests for older politicians to make sure they can do the job. BTW, it’s always the liberals who are the most sexist.”
Haley also retweeted other anti-Lemon comments from conservative politicians and media figures, and moved quickly to take political advantage.
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She emailed a fundraising appeal to supporters, decrying Lemon as a “CNN liberal,” including a link to the clip.
“We must fight these liberal attacks,” Haley’s campaign wrote. “They hate conservative women the most.”
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.