Don Lemon's highly combative interview with Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy last week was partly responsible for his firing from CNN, according to reports. This comes as insiders warn that Lemon is gearing up to sue and claim that his removal allowed for a review of the underperforming morning program.
Lemon, 57, has worked for CNN for the past 17 years and is one of their most recognizable anchors. It is estimated that he makes $4 million annually. He was shifted from his evening slot in order to co-host CNN This Morning, which premiered on November 1 but has yet to gain enough traction.
In the Middle of a Storm
Lemon's firing from CNN follows repeated accusations of misogyny and misbehavior. "I am stunned," Lemon wrote on Twitter, saying he was told by his agent he had been let go. Understandably, his unceremonious exit has now sparked a blame game between Lemon and CNN.
CNN said it "parted ways" with Lemon, who co-hosted its morning show, saying "we wish him well".
Lemon's firing didn't come as a shock to many given that he has time and again been accused of sexist behavior and sending threatening texts to his colleagues, which was making the workplace environment toxic.
However, it was his recent interview with Ramaswamy that likely was the final nail in the coffin. The highly combative interview with Ramaswamy did not go down well with his bosses.
He also got into trouble earlier this year after making remarks against Nikki Haley, a former UN ambassador and the governor of South Carolina.
He argued that Haley, 51, "isn't in her prime,"; that it was more interesting to watch the men's national soccer team than the much more successful women's, and that this was why there was a pay gap.
On April 5, he was the target of a harsh profile in Variety that accused him of decades of "troubling treatment of women and unprofessional antics."
Chris Licht, the new boss who assumed control in May 2022, reprimanded him and ordered him to undergo training.
However, his combative style persisted, and on April 19, he engaged Ramaswamy in a verbal duel about slavery, the Civil War, and the Second Amendment.
As Lemon and Ramaswamy traded blows, his co-host Poppy Harlow examined her phone while sporting a glazed-over expression.
"You're making people think that the Civil War was fought for black people to get guns," Lemon said.
"It's reductive and I think it's insulting. There are a whole plethora of reasons for the Civil War."
"With all due respect, I find your explanation reductive and actually insulting," Ramaswamy insisted to Lemon.
He continued arguing that a crucial element was permitting black people to acquire firearms.
Aggression Results in Job Loss
"Actually, a funny fact is – black people did not get to enjoy the other freedoms until their Second Amendment rights were secured," Ramaswamy said.
"Black people secured their freedoms after the Civil War - and it's a historical fact, Don, just study it - only after their Second Amendment rights were secured," he continued.
Lemon stopped him and said: "But black people still aren't allowed to enjoy the freedoms as well in this country."
Ramaswamy replied: "I disagree with you on that Don. I think you're doing a disservice to this country by failing to recognize that we have equality before the laws here."
Lemon answered: "The whole reason that the Civil Rights movement happened was because black people did not secure their freedoms after the Civil War."
Lemon told Ramaswamy: "When you are in black skin and you live in this country, then you can disagree with me."
This infuriated Ramaswamy.
According to sources, the interaction "left several CNN leaders exasperated," according to The New York Times.
"There were rumblings inside CNN that they are revamping the morning show and Lemon's firing may have been part of that," according to a source who spoke to DailyMail.com.
"But Don may have blew it all up when he tweeted out the news."
Lemon wrote on Twitter that he was "stunned" by his firing on Twitter.
On Monday morning, he made his regular appearance on the air and seemed nonchalant as he signed off.
Lemon then made the announcement on Twitter, claiming his agent had told him he was being fired.
Lemon wrote, "I am stunned."
"After 17 years at CNN I would have thought someone in management would have had the decency to tell me directly," Lemon wrote on Twitter.
"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."
He continued: "It is clear that there are larger issues at play."
The cause for his termination was not specified by the network. However, it referred to Lemon's account of the events as "inaccurate" in a second statement released on Monday afternoon and said that he had been offered the chance to speak with management.
According to the New York Times, which cited sources familiar with the agreement, Lemon has retained entertainment lawyer Bryan Freedman to address his contract with CNN, which was set to last through 2026.
According to the network, Collins and Harlow, Lemon's former co-hosts, will continue to host CNN This Morning.
After working for a Chicago-area NBC affiliate, Lemon joined CNN in 2006. He was the host of the primetime program Don Lemon Tonight for more than eight years. In November of last year, he quit the slot to help Collins and Harlow start CNN This Morning.