Out CNN anchor Don Lemon has apologized for saying women are not “in their prime” if they’re past their 40s, but he may face further backlash.
Lemon made the comment on Thursday’s edition of CNN This Morning, which he cohosts with Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins. They were discussing former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who announced her run for the Republican presidential nomination this week.
Haley said Wednesday that there should be competency tests for politicians who are over 75, a remark apparently directed at 76-year-old Donald Trump, who is again seeking the Republican nomination, and President Joe Biden, who is 80.
On Thursday’s show, Lemon said Haley, who is 51, should be careful about mentioning age. “This whole talk about age makes me uncomfortable,” he said. “I think it’s the wrong road to go down. She says people, you know, politicians are suddenly not in their prime. Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime. Sorry, when a woman is in their prime in 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.”
That shocked his cohosts. “Wait … prime for what?” said Harlow, who is 41. Lemon replied, “Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just saying what the facts are. Google it.”
Politicians, male or female, are often well past their 40s when they reach high office. Hillary Clinton was 69 when she ran for president in 2016. Nancy Pelosi, who until recently was speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is 82. Vice President Kamala Harris is 58. Lemon, by the way, is 56.
Lemon has now apologized on Twitter and in a CNN staff call. In his tweet, posted Thursday, he wrote, “The reference I made to a woman’s ‘prime’ this morning was inartful and irrelevant, as colleagues and loved ones have pointed out, and I regret it. A woman’s age doesn't define her either personally or professionally. I have countless women in my life who prove that every day.”
On the staff call Friday morning, “Lemon tried to indicate that he owned the mistake, and that he had long stood against racism and sexism, according to one of the people familiar with the incident,”Variety reports. “He thanked many women who have been and are involved in his work. This person said it wasn’t clear whether Lemon assuaged the concerns of all employees.” The apology came “at the behest of CNN CEO Chris Licht,” sources told Variety.
There have been tensions between Lemon and his cohosts on CNN This Morning, which premiered last November. Lemon’s commentary sometimes seems irrelevant and inappropriate, Variety notes. The hosts have “developed an unsteady chemistry, with Collins appearing circumspect and Harlow sometimes playing the role of referee when Lemon wanders away from expected interaction,” the publication reports.
Harlow walked off the set after Lemon’s remarks about age Thursday but returned to finish the program, according to the New York Post.
Top CNN executives remain concerned about Lemon’s comments, and “further action may be warranted,” sources told Variety. Lemon was absent from the show Friday.
Haley clapped back at him via Twitter, writing, “To be clear, I am NOT calling for competency tests for Sexist middle-aged CNN anchors; only for people who make our laws and are 75+.”