CNN Will Use Don Lemon Substitute on Monday Amid ‘CNN This Morning’ Controversy

Don Lemon will be absent from “CNN This Morning” for a second consecutive broadcast as CNN continues to grapple with backlash to comments he made last week about the abilities of women over 40 — a crucial demographic for any morning-news program.

Three people familiar with the Warner Bros. Discovery-backed network say CNN staffers got word around 3 p.m. on Sunday that Lemon, who had been expected to return to his morning duties after taking a previously-scheduled day off on Friday, would not be on air Monday. Sara Sidner, an anchor who has been getting more screen time over the past year, is expected to fill in for him, sitting alongside co-anchor Poppy Harlow while the third member of CNN’s morning show team, Kaitlan Collins, will report from Poland. Some CNN staffers have begun to wonder, according to these people, whether the network may be considering a shake-up of the “CNN This Morning” team.

Lemon gave rise to a controversy Thursday by telling Harlow following a report on Nikki Haley’s candidacy for the 2024 U.S. presidential election that “A woman is considered to be in their prime in 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.” Harlow asked Lemon to clarify what he meant, and he replied: “If you Google ‘when is a woman in her prime,’ it’ll say 20s, 30s and 40s.”

The anchor apologized Thursday afternoon via social media, and then again to his colleagues on a Friday call. But one of the people familiar with the network says Lemon’s efforts have yet to assuage some portion of CNN’s employee base.

One of the people familiar with the network says Lemon requested Monday off. CNN declined to make executives available for comment. The Daily Beast previously reported on Lemon’s absence from the program on Monday.

“CNN This Morning” was supposed to be one of a handful of key programing initiatives from Chris Licht, the CNN CEO who took the job after building an impressive track record elsewhere in the TV business. Licht was one of the creators of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” one of that network’s most durable programming franchises, and retooled “CBS This Morning” for CBS before moving to work as showrunner for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In doing so, Licht helped that program usurp NBC’s “Tonight Show” as the nation’s most-watched late-night program.

Licht has worked to recalibrate CNN after an era in which the network was in the news almost as often as its anchors reported on it. The executive has expressed a desire to move away from the era of his predecessor, Jeff Zucker, who encouraged anchors and correspondents to not only challenge newsmakers but to with increasing frequency express passion or opinion when doing so. Some of Licht’s other efforts –a retooled daytime format and a 9 p.m. program called “CNN Primetime” — are expected to debut in weeks to come.

But the morning program has proven nettlesome, with the trio of anchors failing to gel, and concerns rising that Lemon, who held forth solo in primetime for years, was clashing with his co-anchors, whether he meant to or not. On Friday, Lemon told colleagues that he owned the error, had long stood against racism and sexism, and felt many women at CNN had contributed to his success there.

(Excerpt) Read more in: Variety

CNN Will Use Don Lemon Substitute on Monday Amid ‘CNN This Morning’ Controversy

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