Don Lemon has been accused of sending threatening text messages to his co-workers and behaving like a “diva” at CNN, as per a new investigative report from Variety.
The indictment of Lemon’s character includes an account from 2008 accusing him of intimidating his Live From co-anchor Kyra Phillips after she landed an assignment to cover Iraq.
The 57-year-old was reportedly upset he wasn’t selected and “vented his disappointment” by “tearing up pictures and notes on top of and inside Phillips’ desk.” When Phillips returned, she allegedly received unsettling text messages from the Baton Rouge native attempting to strong-arm her. “Now you’ve crossed the line, and you’re going to pay for it,” the text reportedly read. After Phillips took the issue to CNN’s higher-ups, they traced the messages back to Don.
The anchor was also accused of misogynistic behavior, with Lemon calling one of his female producers “fat” to her face. He also allegedly disrespected Nancy Grace on air, mocking and mimicking her actions. A source close to Nancy spoke about her interaction with Don and said “she thinks he’s an ass” and he’s always “rude, dismissive and unfamiliar with the [news] content being discussed.”
“That was the beginning of when you knew that Don was kind of volatile and didn’t say good things about women,” a witness to the Grace incident recalled.
The exposé identified another incident where the journalist was “upset” that he lost out on hosting CNN’s Black In America to Soledad O’Brien. Lemon reportedly attacked O’Brien’s identity suggesting she wasn’t Black, with some staffers taking offense. “Don always wanted to be front and center on anything high profile, especially anything involving race,” a colleague told the outlet.
While O’Brien wasn’t present when the anchor made his statement, she noted that it sounded “on brand for him.”
“Don has long had a habit of saying idiotic and inaccurate things, so it sounds pretty on brand for him.”
However, in response to Variety’s claims, Don Lemon and a CNN spokesperson pushed back against the allegations.
“Don, Soledad, and others have in the past correctly referred to her Afro-Cuban heritage as it is a unique part of her personal story. But Don denies making any related remark in a derogatory way. Don says the alleged incidents never occurred and that he was never notified of any investigation,” the news network’s spokesperson said. “CNN cannot corroborate the alleged events from 15 years ago.”
Lemon labeled the outlet’s report as “reckless” and denied any wrongdoing or inappropriate behavior against his women colleagues.
“The story, which is riddled with patently false anecdotes and no concrete evidence, is entirely based on unsourced, unsubstantiated, 15-year-old anonymous gossip. It’s amazing and disappointing that Variety would be so reckless,” Lemon told Insider.
CNN added that Lemon “was never notified of any investigation” tied to the incident Variety described.
The tell-all arrives a month after the television host made “sexist” comments regarding politician Nikki Haley live on air.
In February 2023, he discussed South Carolina Gov. Haley’s candidacy during a CNN This Morning segment, suggesting that politicians over the age of 75 undergo mental competency tests.
He then remarked that the 51-year-old woman “isn’t in her prime.” Don double-downed on his statement asserting that women are “considered to be in their prime in 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.”
Following the backlash from his commentary, Lemon apologized to his peers during the network’s daily editorial meeting. “When I make a mistake, I own it,” Lemon reportedly said. “And I own this one as well.”
He then offered another apology following his remarks, taking accountability for his actions. “I believe that women of any age… can do whatever they set their minds to. The people I am closest to in this organization are women,” he expressed. “The people I seek counsel from most in this organization are women.”