April 21, 2024

Don Lemon’s CNN colleagues angered by ‘stupid’ remarks about Nikki Haley being past her prime

CNN host Don Lemon angered his network colleagues with his remarks Thursday that Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley was past her “prime.”

A CNN insider told Fox News Digital that while everyone makes mistakes, women inside the network were extremely upset with his comments.

Another insider described it thusly: “Everyone’s annoyed… People are definitely upset about it.”

“I was trying to figure out what the hell he was even talking about,” a third CNN insider said. “None of it made sense, it was a stupid thing to say.”

Lemon made the remarks in response to the 51-year-old Haley calling for politicians over 75 years old to undergo annual mental competency tests. Saying he was “uncomfortable” with discussions of age, Lemon declared Haley “isn’t in her prime, sorry.”


“A woman is considered to be in their prime in 20s and 30s and maybe 40s,” he said, as co-host Poppy Harlow remarked sharply, “Prime for what?” Put on the defensive, Lemon told Harlow, 40, and his viewers to “Google it” and not to “shoot the messenger.” Also flanking Lemon was his 30-year-old co-host Kaitlan Collins.

“I’m just saying what the facts are. Google it. Everybody at home, when is woman in her prime, it says 20s, 30s and 40s,” he said. “And I’m just saying should be careful about saying that politicians are not in their prime, and they need to be in prime when they serve. Because she wouldn’t be in her prime according to Google or whatever it is.”

Harlow reportedly had walked off the set following her on-air exchange with Lemon, sources told the New York Post.

Fox News Digital has learned Lemon is expected to address the matter internally with CNN colleagues on Friday morning.

Lemon’s comments on the low-rated morning show went viral for the wrong reasons, as media figures across the spectrum balked at his comments.Β 


MSNBC figures rarely publicly criticize CNN, but even reporter Ali Vitali, who penned a book about sexism on the campaign trail based on her experiences covering Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 bid, chimed in.

“With the start of each new presidential cycle comes the chance for reporters to do better, less sexist, more fair coverage of all candidates. This is a clear example of how not to do that. But we all have the next year to get it right next time,” she tweeted.

“Isn’t 51 actually quite young by presidential standards?? Trump and Biden were both over 70 when elected,” the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey noted.

Haley herself fired back at Lemon’s comments, saying “it’s always the liberals who are the most sexist.”

Lemon apologized on Twitter later in the day, although he notably didn’t mention Haley by name.

“The reference I made to a woman’s β€˜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,” he wrote.

In response to the tweet, Haley mocked the TV host, writing “To be clear, I am NOT calling for competency tests for sexist middle-aged CNN anchors; only for people who make our laws and are 75+.”

A network insider told Fox News Digital that Lemon’s tweet was in response to the feedback he received directly from his female colleagues at CNN. CEO Chris Licht supported the idea of Lemon issuing a statement.Β 

The source familiar with Licht’s thinking said while he doesn’t believe in “cancel culture” and fixating on “Twitter outrage,” Licht was “pissed” about Lemon’s “unforced error,” saying the network CEO is “more sensitive” to how staffers have reacted to the comments.Β 

Fox News Digital learned Lemon will be absent on Friday’s show, but it was actually planned even before he sparked the viral backlash as he was set for an extended weekend vacation. At the end of Thursday’s broadcast, Lemon preemptively wished his viewers to “have a great weekend.” Lemon is expected to return to the airwaves Monday.

A CNN spokesman directed Fox News Digital to Lemon’s tweet and declined further comment.

One of the more well-known partisan figures at CNN, Lemon survived Licht’s first year on the job that saw the ousters of other left-leaning personalties like media anchor Brian Stelter, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and White House correspondent John Harwood. Lemon was moved from his longtime primetime show late last year to the new morning program “CNN This Morning,” which has been mired by low ratings and occasional tabloid fodder stories of on-set tensions, such as Lemon snapping at Collins for interrupting him.


Earlier this month, a clip of Lemon made the rounds where he refused to let the show go to commercial while criticizing Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., after an interview Collins had just finished with him on Feb. 7. As Harlow praised Collins for her interviewing skills and said “moving on,” Lemon said, “Not moving on,” and proceeded to make a speech about having a “shared reality.” He also admonished the show’s producers to cut the music, so he could speak.

Lemon doesn’t particularly trouble to hid his political views – in that same moment, he fumed that the New York Post had been cited by Comer as a “credible source.”

“Don Lemon didn’t apologize here because he’s remorseful about what he said,” Fox News contributor Joe Concha said about the Haley incident. “He meant every word. He’s apologizing because he was told to. The backlash been overwhelming and rightly so.”

Concha noted Lemon is 56, five years older than the apparently past-her-prime Haley.

“Does that mean he’s past his prime or does that only apply to women?” Concha asked.


There has never been a woman president, but Kamala Harris was 56 when she became vice president. If Haley became president in 2025, she would celebrate her 53rd birthday on Inauguration Day and enter office considerably younger than her immediate predecessors.

President Biden, who was 78 when he was sworn in, is the oldest president in American history, while Donald Trump previously held the record for oldest elected president at age 70 in 2016. The previous three presidents Barack Obama (47 at his first inauguration), George W. Bush (54) and Bill Clinton (46) were considerably younger when they took office.

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