Don Lemon’s CNN peers angered by ‘stupid’ remarks about Nikki Haley past her prime

CNN anchor Don Lemon angered his networkmates Thursday with his comments that Republican presidential hope Nikki Haley was past his “best time.”

A CNN insider told Fox News Digital that while everyone makes mistakes, women within the network were extremely upset by his comments.

As another insider put it, “Everyone’s upset… I’m sure people are upset about it.”

“I was trying to figure out what the hell he was even talking about,” a third CNN insider said. “None of it made sense, it was stupid to say.”

Lemon made the remarks in response to Haley, 51, urging politicians over the age of 75 to undergo annual mental competency tests. Lemon said he’s “uncomfortable” with discussions about age, stating that Haley is “not in her prime, sorry.”


“A woman is considered to be in her prime in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s,” he said, while co-host Poppy Harlow snarled, “Prime for what?” Lemon got defensive, telling Harlow, 40 , and his viewers that they should “google” and not “shoot the messenger”. Alongside Lemon was his 30-year-old co-host Kaitlan Collins.

CNN's Don Lemon faced backlash after suggesting presidential nominee Nikki is Haley "beyond their heyday."

CNN’s Don Lemon faced backlash after implying that presidential candidate Nikki Haley was “past her prime.” (Theo Wargo/Getty)

“I’m just saying what the facts are. Google it. Everyone at home, when is a woman in her prime, it says 20’s, 30’s and 40’s,” he said. “And I’m just saying, be careful when you say that politicians are not in their prime, and they must be in their prime when they serve. Because according to Google or whatever, she wouldn’t be in her prime.”

Harlow had reportedly left the set following her exchange with Lemon, sources told the New York Post.

Fox News Digital has learned Lemon is expected to raise the matter internally with CNN colleagues Friday morning.

Lemon’s comments on the under-rated morning show went viral for all the wrong reasons, as media professionals from across the spectrum dismissed his comments.


MSNBC members rarely publicly criticize CNN, but even reporter Ali Vitali, who has written a book on campaign sexism based on her experiences with Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 bid, weighed in.

“As each new presidential cycle begins, reporters have a chance to do better, less sexist, and fairer coverage of all candidates. This is a clear example of what not to do. But we all have next year to get it right next time,” she tweeted.

“Isn’t 51 pretty young by presidential standards?? Trump and Biden were both in their 70s when they were elected,” noted The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey.

Haley herself fired back at Lemon’s comments, saying, “It’s always the liberals who are the most sexist.”

Lemon apologized on Twitter later in the day, although he didn’t specifically mention Haley by name.

“The reference I made this morning to a woman’s ‘best time’ was clumsy and irrelevant, as colleagues and family have pointed out, and I regret it. A woman’s age does not define her personally or professionally. I have countless Women my life who prove that every day,” he wrote.

In response to the tweet, Haley mocked the TV host, writing, “To be clear, I am NOT calling for competency tests for sexist middle-aged CNN hosts; only for people who make our laws and are over 75 years old.”

A network insider told Fox News Digital that Lemon’s tweet was in response to feedback he received directly from his female colleagues at CNN. CEO Chris Licht supported the idea of ​​Lemon making a statement.

The source, familiar with Licht’s thinking, said while he doesn’t believe in “abandon culture” and fixates on “Twitter outrage,” Licht is “pissed” at Lemon’s “unforced blunder” and said the network’s CEO is ” more sensitive” to how employees responded to the comments.

Fox News Digital learned Lemon would be missing from Friday’s show, but it was actually planned before it sparked the viral backlash as he was set to take an extended weekend vacation. At the end of Thursday’s show, Lemon took the precaution of wishing his viewers “a great weekend.” Lemon is expected to return to the airwaves on Monday.

A CNN spokesman referred Fox News Digital to Lemon’s tweet and declined further comment.

CNN host Don Lemon suggests that Nikki Haley has passed her prime on Thursday, sparking a firestorm on the network.

CNN host Don Lemon suggests that Nikki Haley has passed her prime on Thursday, sparking a firestorm on the network. (Screenshot/CNN/CNNThisMorning)

One of CNN’s better-known partisan figures, Lemon survived Licht’s first year on the job, which saw other left-leaning figures toppled, including media host Brian Stelter, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and White House correspondent John Harwood. Lemon was moved from its long-running primetime show late last year to new morning program “CNN This Morning,” which has been polluted by low ratings and the occasional tabloids about on-set tensions, such as:


Earlier this month, a clip of Lemon refusing to go commercial while criticizing Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., made the rounds after Collins just finished an interview with him on Feb. 7 had. Like Harlow, Collins praised her interviewing skills and said “move on,” Lemon said, “Don’t go ahead” and went on to give a speech about a “shared reality.” He also urged the show’s producers to cut the music so he could speak.

Poppy Harlow reacts as Don Lemon refuses to advertise her February 7, 2023 morning show.

Poppy Harlow reacts as Don Lemon refuses to advertise her February 7, 2023 morning show.

Lemon doesn’t bother to hide his political views — at the same time he fumed that Comer had cited the New York Post as a “credible source.”

“Don Lemon didn’t apologize here because he has regrets about what he said,” Fox News contributor Joe Concha said of the Haley incident. “He meant every word. He apologizes because he was told. The backlash has been overwhelming and rightly so.”

Concha noted that Lemon is 56 years old, five years older than the seemingly outdated Haley.

“Does that mean he’s past his prime or does that only apply to women?” asked Concha.


There has never been a woman president, but Kamala Harris was 56 when she became vice president. If Haley became President in 2025, she would celebrate her 53rd birthday on Inauguration Day and take office at a significantly younger age than her immediate predecessors.

President Biden, who was 78 when he was sworn in, is the oldest president in American history, while Donald Trump previously held the record for the oldest president-elect at 70 in 2016. The previous three Presidents Barack Obama (47 when he was first inaugurated), George W. Bush (54) and Bill Clinton (46) were significantly younger when they took office. Don Lemon’s CNN peers angered by ‘stupid’ remarks about Nikki Haley past her prime

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