CNN Chairman Chris Licht has reportedly rebuked anchor Don Lemon over his controversial remarks against Nikki Haley, describing them as a “huge distraction” to the media company.
Lemon, 56, who co-hosts “CNN This Morning,” drew backlash after Thursday’s episode for stating that the 51-year-old GOP presidential candidate was no longer in her “prime.”
This whole talk about age makes me uncomfortable. I think it’s the wrong road to go down. She says people, you know, politicians are something and not in their prime. Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime, sorry. A woman is considered to be in their prime in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.
Lemon was commenting on Haley’s call for competency tests for politicians over 75 at her candidacy announcement in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday. That sparked accusations of ageism against the Indian American candidate, who then pointed out the “liberal” hypocrisy in Lemon’s remarks.
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On Thursday afternoon, the CNN anchor took to Twitter to apologize for his words, saying they were “inartful and irrelevant.”
The reference I made to a woman’s “prime” this morning was inartful and irrelevant, as colleagues and loved ones have pointed out, and I regret it. A woman’s age doesn’t define her either personally or professionally. I have countless women in my life who prove that every day.
In an editorial call Friday morning, the chairman of his own network reportedly denounced his comments.
“His remarks were upsetting, unacceptable and unfair to his co-hosts, and ultimately a huge distraction to the great work of this organization,” Licht told his staff, according to The New York Times, which obtained a recording of the call.
Lemon, who was present in the call, apologized once again and stated that “the people I’m closest to in this organization are women.”
“I am sorry. I did not mean to hurt anyone. I did not mean to offend anyone,” he said, according to the Times.
Lemon was absent for Friday’s broadcast. He began hosting the show in November 2022 with Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins.
This is not the first time Lemon has been involved in a controversy.
In December 2022, he allegedly screamed off-air at Collins for “interrupting” him during the show, according to the New York Post. A week earlier, he also got into an on-air dispute with both co-hosts, arguing that the U.S. men’s soccer team should be paid more than the women’s team.