CNN chief says Don Lemon will return to ‘This Morning’ — but when?

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CNN has said that anchor Don Lemon will return to newly-launched morning show after being benched over sexist comments he made on air.

“I sat down with Don and had a frank and meaningful conversation. He has agreed to participate in formal training, as well as continuing to listen and learn. We take this situation very seriously,” wrote CNN CEO Chris Licht in a staff memo.

“It is important to me that CNN balances accountability with … fostering a culture in which people can own, learn and grow from their mistakes. To that end, Don will return to ‘CNN This Morning‘ on Wednesday (Feb. 22, 2023).”

Lemon’s absence was again noted on Feb. 21, 2023’s edition of the show, with Sara Sidner sitting in next to Poppy Harlow. Kaitlan Collins, who reportedly previously had an off-air run-in with Lemon, was anchoring from Poland as part of her role as main correspondent for the show.

“Also, Don will be back with us tomorrow,” Harlow mentioned at the top of Feb. 21’s show.

Lemon previously apologized for his comments about presidential candidate Nikki Haley, which included him calling the 51-year-old “past her prime.”

Although Lemon’s role on “This Morning” appears safe for now, the show is still flailing in the ratings and there have been reports that he is difficult to work with, something that is perhaps illustrated after he purportedly chastised Collins for talking over him.

CNN is saying Lemon will undergo “formal training,” which presumably means some type of sensitivity training. These programs can range in scope and length to a few hours of watching online videos to more comprehensive, in-person, interactive workshops, but it’s not clear what CNN is having Lemon go through.

Many in the industry have pointed out the irony of Lemon, a Black gay man who’s five years old than Haley, 51, having to undergo sensitivity training over publicly poking fun at a woman’s age. Some have noted that Lemon’s attitude could have been shaped by his years of experience as a highly-paid male in TV news with an allegedly big ego.

It coule also be a challenge for the “This Morning” team to most past Lemon’s comments and alleged behavior to keep up the on-air chemistry that is often so important for TV news, especially morning shows.

While the team may have privately agreed to hit “reset” on their relationship, it’s obviously not clear if Lemon will be able to keep himself in check in the future and prevent offending co-anchors or other colleagues again given his purported workplace attitude.

Either way, “This Morning” hasn’t delivered substantial ratings growth over the show it replaced, “New Day,” though there is something to be said about building momentum with a steady anchor team.