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Don Lemon’s CNN colleagues claim long history of misogyny in explosive report


Don Lemon reportedly displayed a disturbing pattern of misogyny long before his comments about 2024 presidential candidate Nikki Haley temporarily took him off the air.

A new Variety expose accuses the CNN anchor of having a history of inappropriate behavior toward female colleagues that spans the “past two decades.”

Drawn from the accounts of more than a dozen of her former colleagues, the report details that Lemon allegedly upset her peers (including CNN stars Nancy Grace and Soledad O’Brien), belittled female on-air co-anchors and allegedly even wrote a text message harassment campaign against a rival journalist.

Don Lemon attends a pre-Grammys celebration in Beverly Hills in February 2023.

Frazer Harrison via Getty Images

Lemon came under fire in February after telling CNN viewers that former United Nations ambassador Haley was a poor option for the Republican presidential candidate, saying she was “no longer at her peak.”

His comments were condemned by left and right as sexist. Lemon tweeted an apology, calling his remarks “inartistic and irrelevant”, adding that he was “committed to doing better” in the future.

The anchor was taken out of the office for two days, returning after the network said he had received “formal training”.

But according to Variety, Haley’s incident was not isolated, but rather highlighted Lemon’s history of hostility towards women in the workplace, as well as his ability to escape the consequences.

Sources recalled Lemon’s teasing coworker Grace mid-air in 2008, who was allegedly threatened by her rising star on the network.

“It was the start of the days when you knew Don was a bit unstable and didn’t say good things about women,” a witness to the Grace incident said.

Others recalled a staff meeting where the reporter, angry that O’Brien was set to host CNN’s “Black in America” ​​docuseries, openly questioned his race. More than 30 staff members were present.

Don Lemon (center) poses with
Don Lemon (center) poses with ‘CNN This Morning’ co-anchors Kaitlan Collins (left) and Poppy Harlow (right) in December 2022. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for CNN)

Mike Coppola via Getty Images

Although O’Brien was not at the reunion, she told Variety that the incident was “on brand” for Lemon, noting, “Don has a long history of saying silly things and inaccurate.

A CNN spokesperson told Variety that Lemon “denied” referring to O’Brien’s race “in a derogatory way.”

Another accusation from 2008 claims tensions between Lemon and “Live From” co-anchor Kyra Phillips reached frightening levels after he landed a coveted field assignment in Iraq.

Upon her return, she received a pair of threatening text messages from an unknown number, apparently warning Phillips that she had “crossed the line” and would “pay for it,” sources told Variety.

After bringing the threats to CNN’s attention, the company could have traced the texts back to Lemon. He was later pulled from his job opposite Phillips and moved to weekend shows, according to Variety.

The CNN spokesperson told Variety that “Don says the alleged incident never happened and he was never told of an investigation.”

Other accounts say that Lemon exhibited “diva-like behavior” and was prone to skipping important meetings, showing up late to the newsroom, or otherwise being disengaged from work.

Sources also said Lemon’s relationships with the likes of Turner Broadcasting System CEO Phil Kent and later CNN President Jeff Zucker kept him from any serious consequences.

CNN largely denied the report in a statement to HuffPost.

“Variety’s story provides no real evidence and instead relies on anonymous sources and unsubstantiated claims from 10 to 15 years ago,” a spokesperson said. “CNN is unable to corroborate the alleged accounts.”

A representative for Lemon did not immediately respond to a HuffPost request for comment.

After Zucker was ousted from CNN in 2022, Lemon returned to weekday mornings on “CNN This Morning” in November. It was her first assignment with co-anchors since her feud with Phillips more than a decade prior.

Lemon’s comments regarding Haley came four months later.

Read Variety’s full story here.

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