After Don Lemon Assault Lawsuit Was Suddenly Dropped, The CNN Anchor's Lawyer Responded

Don Lemon on CNN
(Image credit: CNN)

Longtime CNN correspondent and host Don Lemon found himself in the news rather than just reporting it a few years ago, when he was accused of assault regarding an alleged incident the year before. Now, nearly three years after the original filing in 2019, the lawsuit has been dropped, and Lemon’s lawyer wasted no time in responding. 

The legal situation began back in August of 2019, when Dustin Hice accused Don Lemon of assaulting him in 2018 in a bar in Sag Harbor, New York. The complaint alleged “emotional pain and suffering” due to “aggression and hostility” at the time, according to Deadline in 2019, but CNN stood by Lemon, with a spokesperson accusing Hice of displaying “a pattern of contempt for CNN on his social media accounts” with the lawsuit filing coming after “his unsuccessful threats and demands for an exorbitant amount of money from Don Lemon.” 

Rumors at the time suggested that Hice attempted to shake down the CNN host for $1.5 million to prevent a suit from being filed. Now, in May of 2022, Dustin Hice has changed his story of the events at the bar in Sag Harbor back in 2018, saying in a statement from his lawyer (via Deadline) that following “a lot of inner reflection and a deep dive” into his memory, he came “to realize that my recollection of the events” actually were “not what I thought they were when I filed this lawsuit.” 

In response, Don Lemon’s lawyer Caroline Polisi released a statement commenting on Hice being “finally able to access his memory and recollect the correct version of events on the night when he approached Don Lemon.” The statement goes on:

This has been a long and difficult journey for Don. Out of respect for the judicial process and my advice, he has had to remain silent in the face of a malicious and vulgar attack on his character. Unfortunately, being a gay Black man in the media, he has had to deal with these sorts of attacks for quite some time. The Court’s ruling fully vindicates Mr. Lemon and brings an end to this abusive lawsuit. This case was a crass money grab from its inception. Mr. Lemon has never paid the plaintiff a dime over the course of this unfortunate spectacle, and he is looking forward to moving on with his life.

Caroline Polisi’s mention of “The Court’s ruling” is in reference to a federal judge deciding back in March that Dustin Hice was responsible for paying $77,000 in sanctions to Lemon due to the destruction of and/or tampering with evidence and attempting to bribe witnesses, demonstrating a pattern of court conduct violations. The lawsuit isn’t moving forward to trial in June as was expected, but Hice dropping the suit doesn’t clear him of the $77,000. He’ll still have to pay the sanctions.

Don Lemon – who recently attended the traditional White House Correspondents’ Dinner (hosted by The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah) with his partner Tim Malone – has not responded to Dustin Hice dropping the lawsuit at the time of writing. He has been a fixture on CNN since 2006, and has been part of the network's lineup on weeknights as host of Don Lemon Tonight. He presumably won’t be leaving the TV schedule any time soon, with this lawsuit now behind him. Lemon was roped into former CNN reporter Chris Cuomo’s arbitration filing following his firing.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).