Don Lemon on Wednesday will return to “CNN This Morning,” but his network is requiring him to undergo sensitivity training in response to his recent offensive comments about women.
In a memo to staff Monday, CNN Chairman Chris Licht said Lemon will return to the anchor desk he shares with Kaitlan Collins and Poppy Harlow.
“I sat down with Don and had a frank and meaningful conversation,” Licht said in the memo, which was reviewed by The Times. “He has agreed to participate in formal training, as well as continuing to listen and learn. We take this situation very seriously.”
The note put to rest speculation that Lemon would be fired over the imbroglio, which has become a major distraction for the network.
“It is important to me that CNN balances accountability with fostering a culture in which people can own, learn and grow from their mistakes,” Licht stated.
Licht’s memo did not go into detail on the kind of training Lemon will undergo.
“The company has a number of resources, and Don is committed to our recommendation,” a CNN representative said.
Lemon was unexpectedly off the air for “CNN This Morning” on Monday, his second day away from the network since causing a firestorm Thursday by saying women are past their “prime” after their 40s. The controversy has become a tabloid saga in New York and a talking point for right-wing critics of CNN.
The remarks were a clumsy attempt by Lemon to criticize Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s 2024 presidential campaign announcement last week, which focused on the advanced age of the current leadership and presented herself as a representative of a new generation.
“All the talk about age makes me uncomfortable — I think it’s a wrong road to go down,” Lemon began. “She says politicians, or something, are not in their prime. Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime — sorry — when a woman is considered to be in her prime in her 20s and 30s, maybe 40s.”
Harlow quickly interjected, telling Lemon to “wait,” and asked a couple of times, “Prime for what?”
“That’s not according to me. It’s just like ‘prime,’ if you look it up,” Lemon responded, telling Harlow that if she googled “ ‘When is a woman in her prime?’ it’ll say, 20s, 30s and 40s. I’m not saying I agree with that.”
Harlow asked, “Are you talking about prime for child-bearing or prime for being president?”
“I’m just saying what the facts are,” Lemon retorted, this time asking “everybody at home” to do their own Google search about “a women’s prime.”
Lemon apologized to colleagues Friday on an editorial call.
The exchange, which upset both of Lemon’s co-anchors, is the most recent embarrassing incident on “CNN This Morning,” which has had a rocky start since its debut in November as Licht’s first major programming initiative.
In December, Lemon screamed at Collins off-camera following a Dec. 8 broadcast. He was angry at her for interrupting him on the air, according to the New York Post. People familiar with the situation confirmed the report.