Don Lemon receives $24.5 million settlement after being fired by CNN

BY Preta Peace Namasaba February 29, 2024 6:33 AM EDT
Don Lemon. Photo credit: McKinsey & Company

According to a report by TheWrap, Don Lemon has received $24.5 million in a settlement with CNN. This comes nearly a year later after the former CNN host was removed from his primetime show. The payout accounts for the full complete pay from Lemon’s final contract which extended 3.5 years from his ousting.

Lemon began his career as a journalist anchoring weekend news programs on local television stations in Alabama and Pennsylvania. He won numerous awards for his reporting on pertinent topics such as Hurricane Katrina and the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa. But it was at CNN that he became a household name in the media landscape. His engaging style and thought-provoking interviews proved to be immensely popular.

Last year, Lemon was engaged in some controversy following his remarks about presidential candidate Nikki Haley being past her prime. His comment was in response to a proposal Haley made during her presidential announcement speech about instituting a mental competency test for politicians over the age of 75. Two months later, Lemon was ousted from the network.

After nearly two decades with CNN, Lemon announced his departure in a statement on X (formerly Twitter). He said he was ‘stunned’ by management’s decision not to directly inform him of the termination.

“I was informed this morning by my agent that I have been terminated by CNN. I am stunned. After 17 years at CNN I would have thought someone in management would have had the decency to tell me directly. At no time was I ever given any indication that I would not be able to continue to do the work I have loved at the network. It is clear that there are some larger issues at play,” his statement said.

On the other hand, CNN’s public relations team accused Lemon of misrepresenting what occurred in a counter statement. They stated that he was offered an opportunity to meet with management but chose to release a statement on social media.

In a later interview, Lemon revealed a misalignment between his vision and CNN’s strategic direction. He stated that he wasn’t included in the network’s evolving strategy. CNN’s internal dynamics were made public in subsequent months as the network fired its CEO after just over a year on the job.

“I have a responsibility not only as a journalist, but as an American, to tell the truth. And to abide by the promises of the Constitution, because the Constitution says a more perfect union. Not a perfect union. I’m not a perfect person. No one is. In order to fulfill the promise of the Constitution, we have to stand up for what is right. We have to stand up for the truth,” Lemon said of his commitment to journalism and being an American.

The $24.5 million separation payout deal marks the end of the drawn-out saga between CNN and Lemon. The journalist recently announced his return to broadcasting with a new show on X. He has teamed up with billionaire X-owner Elon Musk for the debut of “The Don Lemon Show”, a 30-minute production appearing exclusively on the platform thrice a week.

“I’ve heard you and today I’m back bigger, bolder, freer! I know now more than ever that we need a place for honest debate and discussion without the hall monitors. This is just the beginning so stay tuned,” Lemon said of his prospective show.