CNN’s decision to fire anchor Don Lemon on Monday was reportedly due to a contentious debate he engaged in with GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy last week.
The heated exchange during last Wednesday’s episode of “CNN This Morning” may have been the tipping point that ended Lemon‘s 17-year tenure at the network, according to the New York Times. Two sources told the paper that the interview “left several CNN leaders exasperated.”
Footage shows that the discussion turned fiery after Ramaswamy defended a recent speech he made at a National Rifle Association event in which he accused the Democratic Party of wanting to put Black people “back in chains.”
“When you are in Black skin and you live in this country then you can disagree with me, but we’re not,” Lemon said at one point during the discussion. “You mentioned there are three different shades of melanin here?”
“I disagree,” Ramaswamy responded. “Don I think we have to be able to talk about these issues in the open regardless of the color of our skin. Black Americans today, to say that, compare that to 1865 and 1964, absolutely have equal rights in this country.”
Lemon then proceeded to accuse Ramaswamy of being reductive and insulting by suggesting that Black people only fought for gun rights during the Civil War.
Ramaswamy would later argue that they should be able to “express our views regardless of the color of our skin.”
“We should have this debate without me, regarding you as a Black man,” Ramaswamy added.
“It’s insulting that you’re…” Lemon said, before Ramaswamy interjected, “Regarding you here as a fellow citizen.”
“That you’re sitting here whatever ethnicity you are explaining to me what it’s like to be Black in America,” Lemon replied.
“Whatever ethnicity I am?” a shocked Ramaswamy asked. “I’ll tell you what I am. I’m an Indian American. I’m proud of it. But I think we should have this debate. Black, white, doesn’t matter.”
“I think we should have this debate but I think we should,” said Lemon, before Ramaswamy interjected again, “On the content of the ideas to do.”
“You should do it in an honest way and in a fair way. And what you’re doing is not an honest and fair way. We appreciate you coming on,” said Lemon to end the interview.
“With due respect, Don, I look forward to continuing that conversation,” Ramaswamy concluded.
Although CNN chairman Chris Licht thanked Lemon for his contributions over the years, there was no mention of the cause of his departure.
Lemon expressed his shock via a tweet, stating that he was informed by his talent agent of his termination.
“I am stunned,” Lemon wrote. “After 17 years at CNN, I would have thought that 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.”
In response, CNN called Lemon’s statement “inaccurate” and said that the anchor “was offered an opportunity to meet with management but instead released a statement on Twitter.”
Prior to the debate, Lemon was also criticized for widely panned comments regarding GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley in which he said she was “past her prime.” There were also purported behind-the-scenes tensions between Lemon and co-host Kaitlin Collins.