Don Lemon Says He Feels Vindicated After CNN Tumult, Teases Next Career Move
Don Lemon made his first extended comments since he was fired from CNN, telling podcast host Kara Swisher that he feels “vindicated” following the exit of CNN leadership after his departure.
Lemon was let go from the network’s morning show in April. But in June, CNN boss Chris Licht himself was shown the door, following the publication of an embarrassing profile in The Atlantic and a staff backlash over the way that a town hall with former President Donald Trump was handled.
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“Read the story, and you speak to the people who are there, and I think people get what happened,” Lemon told Swisher. “All you have to do is read The Atlantic story. Read the subsequent stories that came out, and you know, how it played out, and they are gone now. So do I feel vindicated in that sense? yes, I do.”
Lemon also had words of praise for Licht’s predecessor, Jeff Zucker, who he said was “the best news executive who I have ever worked for” in his career.
In February, Lemon apologized to staffers and on Twitter amid a controversy over comments he made on the morning show, in which he suggested that presidential candidate Nikki Haley was not “in her prime,” before talking about when women are considered to be in their prime.
Lemon returned to the air after several days. But he told Swisher that he was “never allowed to address the issue on the air. I wish that I could but I was never allowed to.” He also suggested that Zucker would have handled the situation differently.
“He understood that when you are in those conversations, just as in your regular conversations that you have across the dinner table or in a restaurant, you don’t always say things perfectly. You’re not going to say that on television. He was very supportive of us, and he wanted us to, not necessarily to be provocative, but just be ourselves. And if we got something wrong, we apologized, we explained it and he supported us and we moved on. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world or a big issue, unless you are looking for a reason to get rid of someone.”
Lemon said that “when I was there, I was not a part of their strategy.” He said that Licht and his team “wanted to be centrist and they wanted to move the network in a certain direction, which was kind of a bit surprising because I think the news is the news and you don’t choose a direction. It just is.”
Lemon said that he and Zucker were on vacation together earlier this summer. CNN is now led by a four-person interim team, but there has been speculation that parent Warner Bros. Discovery, facing a huge debt load, would look to sell the network.
“I think the best person to run CNN was and would be Jeff Zucker,” Lemon said. “Do I think he’s going to go back? No. Do I think he’s going to buy it? You’d have to ask him. I doubt it. I don’t talk to him about those things. But why would he, in this environment, and considering what’s happening now? I mean, why would he want to go back and why would he subject himself to that.”
Lemon said that “especially over the next 14 months, I expect to have a voice so stay tuned for that.”
“I want to do something next that scares the s— out of me,” he said. “I had a very successful career in cable news for a very long time. I got to do and say exactly what I wanted to. I have and had a very important voice that most people get to hear on that platform, and still don’t. But I am going to lean in to the future of this medium and do something that scares me.”
Pressed by Swisher on details, Lemon said, “i would like to be able to reach a bigger and different audience. I don’t want to keep preaching to the choir. And I don’t want to keep preaching to a diminishing audience.”
Lemon said that what he does will be “more that one platform if I decide to do it. As you know, I don’t have to rush back to work. It’s a good time for me to figure it out. I just don’t want my voice to be lost over the next 14 months.
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