Don Lemon has denied claims that CNN boss Chris Licht wants the news network to end its “opinion-making” coverage, which could result in him getting the ax in favor of “truthful news,” adding that he has a return to more conservative polling would welcome.
Lemon made the comments on Friday while appearing as a guest on Comedy Central’s “Hell Of A Week,” hosted by Charlamagne tha God. The pair discussed the current political climate in America and the purpose of independent journalism in an industry now more prejudiced than ever.
Toward the end of their exchange, Charlamagne conjures up Licht’s plan to steer CNN away from “opinion-based partisan news” into a political center.
He then asks Lemon, 56, who has been a member of CNN since 2006, “Are you still going to be able to call it what it is?”
“Let me just say that I don’t think that’s exactly what Chris is saying,” Lemon replied.
“I think that’s a narrative that’s been placed in the media. I think what Chris wants to do is have Republicans and Democrats and whatever your political stance on CNN so you’re accountable and you can stand up for it,” he added.
Don Lemon appeared on Charlamagne tha God’s “Hell Of A Week” show on Comedy Central to talk about his and CNN’s future
Chris Licht took over CNN in May and is seeking changes across the news network to help viewers regain trust in the media, including moving away from “opinion mongering” and towards pure news
Last week, rumors surfaced that CNN was considering an overhaul of its anchor lineup, with less reliance on opinionated anchors like Lemon — a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump — and Brianna Keilar, in favor of White House chief correspondent Kaitlan Collins after earnings expected to fall below $1 billion, a first since 2016.
An inside source also told Radar that Licht’s vision and new leadership style are worrying the network’s star personalities like Anderson Cooper and Lemon, who “were used to being treated like stars, not employees.”
The pair were very popular with former CNN boss Jeff Zucker, who resigned in February because of his relationship with the network’s marketing director Allison Gollust, often socializing and chatting about company gossip.
“Chris’ first priority will be to fix CNN’s morning and prime-time programming,” the inside source told Radar. “That’s where the big advertising money is. Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, and the morning hosts should be worried.”
Licht also has his eye on CNN correspondent Jamie Gangel and is rumored to be late-night TV talk show host Stephen Colbert, who he worked with during his time at CBS News, as well as other household names like MSNBC’ Morning Joe’ co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, according to Radar.
CNN is considering internally recalling Kaitlan Collins, CNN’s chief White House correspondent, in a bid to boost the news network’s ratings and reputation in favor of some of the network’s bossy anchors like Lemon and Anderson Cooper
Joe Scarborough and MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Mika Brezinski are other high-profile names Licht has worked with in the past and are reportedly considering hiring at CNN
TV talk show host Stephen Colbert is being rumored to be a possible arrival at CNN, rumors are reporting. Licht and Colbert know each other well, as the new CNN boss was formerly the executive producer of CBS’s The Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert
Suggestions that those at CNN who don’t follow Licht’s vision could face death don’t seem to concern Lemon, who confirmed to Charlamagne: “Yes, I will be able to do what I do do at CNN.”
“If I can’t do that, I’ll do it somewhere else,” Lemon added.
When asked if he would be willing to leave the news network if that moment came sooner rather than later, Lemon said, “It’s not just CNN. If people don’t allow journalists to be journalists because we, in turn, hold those in power accountable… That’s our job, that’s what we’re supposed to be doing.”
“Why should it be any different for us to do it for the people who are responsible for us? To question what they’re doing, to hold them accountable, to make sure they’re doing the right thing, even if they’re the people hiring us,” he added.
Charlamagne then broached the subject of Chris Cuomo’s firing from CNN last November, when multiple reports revealed that the new NewsNation anchor was assisting in the defense against sexual harassment allegations leading to the resignation of his brother, the ousted former governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, led.
“You always said, ‘I love you, brother.’ And he always said, ‘I love you, brother.’ It was about seeing a black man and a white man on TV doing that…do you still love him?’ Charlamagne asked Lemon, referring to his famous primetime handoff with Cuomo.
‘Of course, of course. I love everyone,” Lemon replied.
Lemon was also asked about his relationship with former CNN colleague Chris Cuomo before he was fired in November for helping defend against sexual harassment allegations that led to the resignation of his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, led
Charlamagne then alluded to how Cuomo bemoaned the lack of follow-ups he’d received from former CNN colleagues who commented on his firing, including Lemon.
‘I should have called him about something – I don’t know the context. I don’t know what he said,” Lemon replied.
‘I guess after what happened to him,’ said Charlamagne.
“I’d been talking to Chris for a while. I mean, I don’t know what he said, I didn’t hear what he said, but I don’t know, that’s not true,” concluded Lemon.
According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, there are rumors of change at CNN as the news channel’s earnings are expected to fall just under $1 billion ($956.8 million) this year. The massive drop marks the first time the news network has failed to hit the benchmark since 2016.
The network’s ratings also continue to fall as the company records its lowest numbers in seven years. Competitor MSNBC has also seen declines since former President Trump took office.
According to one report, CNN’s viewership has declined 27 percent since last year as an average of 639,000 viewers were hired this quarter. MSNBC viewership is down 23 percent. Meanwhile, Fox News viewership is up 1 percent.
When Licht took over in May, he tried to fix the declining numbers by shutting down CNN+, a new original programming platform that failed after being streamed by just 5,000 to 10,000 people. The company continues to pay the costs associated with the platform.
The company also cut various budget areas, including travel expenses. It also spent millions on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. To solve the network’s economic dilemma, Licht enlisted the help of Chris Marlin, a Florida real estate executive with a legal background.
Marlin, who has no television network experience, was hired in May as head of strategy and operations. He has tried investing in advertising spots with big companies like Microsoft. He has also been tossing around ideas about expanding CNN into China.
Licht’s goal is to “take different paths” with the network at a time when “extremes dominate cable news.”