Don Lemon Returned To CNN, But It Sounds Like The Tension Is Far From Over

Don Lemon on CNN This Morning
(Image credit: CNN)

To the surprise of many, Don Lemon made his return to CNN This Morning on Wednesday for the first time since his controversial comments about presidential hopeful Nikki Haley sparked a backlash that hasn’t entirely subsided. It was initially unclear how the channel would proceed after keeping Lemon for an additional two weekdays following his pre-planned day off. CNN boss Chris Licht quelled those curiosities on Tuesday via staff memo that went public later, confirming the anchor would return to his morning duties mid-week. Sure enough, the hosting status quo was in place, but tensions are reportedly still quite high amongst his colleagues and bosses. 

Don Lemon Shared Latest Apology Ahead Of Return 

A little under 30 minutes before hitting the air again alongside Poppy Harlow, Lemon took to Twitter to share blanketed appreciation for the chance to get back to work, along with another public apology for having labeled Nikki Haley as being beyond her “prime” at 51 years of age. 

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Given the nature of Twitter, the post was met with equal waves of seemingly genuine empathy, overtly genuine snark, meanness, niceness, and occasional randomness. 

Nothing Was Referenced During CNN This Morning

While some viewers may have expected Wednesday morning’s telecast to make some form of reference to Don Lemon’s absence, or his comments that preceded his absence, nothing of the sort happened. Instead, things kicked off with him sitting astride Poppy Harlow as if nothing too dire had happened. 

Perhaps the only time where Lemon appeared to specifically have that whole ordeal at the forefront of his mind was during a segment later in the broadcast that addressed British companies starting to test out four-day work week. The anchor voiced his opinion that such a change wouldn’t win his favor, saying:

I like working. I love what I do.

Granted, he wasn’t holding a sign saying “Talking to you, CNN bosses,” but the overall sentiment was likely a genuine one all the same, even if it’s rumored that he would be perfectly fine with parting ways with the channel should better offers come from elsewhere.  

Don Lemon Reportedly Has One Strike Left At CNN

Had this been Don Lemon's very first case of questionable and anger-inducing behavior, this likely wouldn’t be such a complicated return for the anchor. However, his on-air comments — and then subsequent pushback against Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins — were only the latest reported instances where his words and/or actions have lit others’ fuses.

Having garnered public criticisms from late night TV and comedians, with Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special comments setting him off in particular, Lemon has also reportedly earned his fair share of off-camera complaints. Weeks ahead of his Nikki Haley comments, the New York Post reported on an alleged incident in December where Lemon is said to have screamed at Collins once the cameras stopped rolling because she interrupted him on the air, which caused her to leave the set.

It’s to the point, TMZ reports, that Don Lemon agreed to return to CNN This Morning with the knowledge that he doesn’t have any leeway left with execs, and will get no future warnings. If any other negative comments are made about or to his co-workers, or if there are complaints made about his at-work behavior, he will allegedly be shown the door. 

The fact that Don Lemon isn’t bringing the kinds of ratings and viewership numbers that CNN is looking for could also be a factor in his alleged short leash at the company. He was shifted away from primetime due to dipping numbers, and things haven’t been going so well for his morning audiences either. 

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.