Don Lemon is looking back on being let go from CNN in April.
In a conversation with Kara Swisher on her podcast Pivot, Lemon opened up about feeling like CNN was getting ready to go in a different direction, and he didn’t fit that mold. The former CNN This Morning co-anchor was let go two months after making comments about how Nikki Haley was no longer in her prime.
“CNN, the strategy and their content and the direction they wanted to go in, I was not a part of that,” Lemon said. “They did not want me to be a part of that, and I think that has, from what has played out publicly as it relates to CNN, as it relates to management, and what they’re doing now, I think that it’s obvious that they didn’t want me to be a part of that. And I think that’s a real issue that happened.”
He explained that he hasn’t watched the network since his departure, but that when he was there, he wasn’t a part of their strategy of wanting to be centrist, which he found surprising. “I think the news is the news, and you don’t choose a direction, it just is,” he said.
When asked about Chris Licht being let go shortly after the former CNN head ousted the co-anchor, Lemon said it speaks to what was happening before he was fired, adding that he feels “vindicated” knowing that Licht is no longer running things.
“Read the story and you speak to the people who are there, and I think people get what happened. All you have to do is read the Atlantic story, read the subsequent stories that came out, and how it played out. They’re gone now. So do I feel vindicated in that sense? Yes, I do,” Lemon said, referring to the Atlantic feature that forced Licht to apologize to staff on an editorial call at the time.
He also claimed that had Jeff Zucker been heading the network when Lemon made the comments about Haley, which he apologized for, things would have been different because he would understand that anchors say things all the time that they wish they could’ve phrased differently.
“I hadn’t gotten into trouble for making mistakes before because I would apologize for them or explain what I intended to say, and it would be fine because I think people understood that that’s the way it works in television,” he said. “I was never allowed to address the issue on the air. I wish that I could’ve, but I was never allowed to.”
Lemon continued, “He understood that when you’re in those conversations, just as in your regular conversations that you have across the dinner table or at a restaurant, you don’t always say things perfectly. … And he was very supportive of us and he wanted us to not necessarily be provocative but just to be ourselves. And if we got something wrong, we apologized. We explained it, and he supported us, and we moved on. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world or a big issue unless you’re looking for a reason to get rid of someone.”
Later in the conversation, he shared that he lives in the present and looks forward to the future, but he doesn’t look back at his past, noting he had almost 17 great years at CNN, despite his departure.
“There isn’t a better person alive who could run CNN [than Jeff Zucker],” he added. “Do I think he’s going to go back? No. Do I think he’s going to buy it? You’d have to ask him. I doubt it. I don’t talk to him about those things. But why would he in this environment? … If anyone could save CNN, if it needs saving — if you want to put it in that context — it would be Jeff Zucker.”