Earlier this year, CNN star Don Lemon stirred controversy for referring to presidential candidate Nikki Haley, 51, as “not in her prime.” Haley sent a tweet calling the remark sexist. Co-host Poppy Harlow reportedly left the set in a huff.
However, Lemon had strained his relationships with his female co-workers long before his remark about Haley. Lemon’s amassed a record going all the way back to 2008.
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Variety reported Wednesday —
Back in 2008, Don Lemon was co-anchoring CNN’s “Live From” weekday show with Kyra Phillips, a gig that he landed after he arrived at the network two years prior from local news in Chicago. For months, tensions between the pair kept mounting. On more than one occasion, a “Live From” producer and a newsroom supervisor had to pull Lemon off the air during a commercial break because of the anchor’s provocative antics…
His antipathy toward Phillips was particularly concerning and had many members of the close-knit Atlanta news team on edge. While Phillips was on assignment in Iraq — a high-profile gig that Lemon coveted — he vented his disappointment at being passed over by tearing up pictures and notes on top of and inside Phillips’ desk in the news pod they shared, according to two sources who worked there at the time.
It gets worse.
After Iraq, an unknown number reportedly text-messaged Phllips, “Now you’ve crossed the line, and you’re going to pay for it.” The unknown number was traced back to Lemon amid an investigation by human resources, insiders told Variety.
Lemon denies any threatening texts and any investigations into his behavior, CNN said in a statement. The network added that it “cannot corroborate the alleged events from 15 years ago.”
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After that scandal, Lemon was moved to weekend broadcasts, and he went 14 years without appearing next to a female co-anchor.
In November 2022, Lemon broke that 14-year streak. He began hosting CNN This Morning with Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins… and he brought the show to infamy with his remarks about Nikki Haley being “not in her prime.”
However, Lemon had grated on his female co-workers even before his comments about Haley.
Variety reported on his strained relationships with anchor Soledad O’Brien and legal commentator Nancy Grace.
The outlet said —
Lemon called one of his producers fat to her face. Not long before he was identified as sending threatening texts to Phillips, he mocked Grace on air by mimicking her, shocking fellow colleagues. Grace declined comment but a person close to her tells Variety that “she thinks he’s an [a**]” and that he was always “rude, dismissive and really unfamiliar with the [news] content being discussed.”
“That was the beginning of when you knew that Don was kind of volatile and didn’t say good things about women,” says a witness to the Grace incident…
O’Brien, who wasn’t present, tells Variety, “Don has long had a habit of saying idiotic and inaccurate things, so it sounds pretty on brand for him.”
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Speaking to Variety, one insider accused Lemon of “diva-like behavior.” Scathing!
“That led to a come-to-Jesus moment,” another senior executive told the outlet. “Don was told, ‘Look, you’ve got to address your behavior. Your performance as a reporter is great. It’s your behavior that’s gotta improve. It’s what’s going to derail you if you’re not careful.’”
Yet, it didn’t stop.
In 2014, Lemon stirred controversy by asking one of Bill Cosby’s rape accusers whether she could have bitten the comedian’s genitals.
Lemon has apologized for some of these remarks, like his statements about Cosby and Haley.
However, as one of the biggest draws at a struggling network, Lemon looks unlikely to go anywhere.
The Horn editorial team