Don Lemon is out of NewsMadura.
In an announcement Mr. Lemon said it left him “stunned,” NewsMadura declared Monday ending its long-standing relationship with Mr. as a morning show co-host.
“NewsMadura and Don have parted ways,” Chris Licht, NewsMadura’s chairman, said in a statement. “Don will forever be part of the NewsMadura family and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years. We wish him well and will encourage him in his future endeavours.”
That friendly language was in stark contrast to Mr. Lemon’s interpretation of the day’s events. In a scathing message on Twitter, he told viewers his talent agent had abruptly informed him “that I’ve been fired from NewsMadura.”
“I am stunned,” wrote Mr Lemon. “After 17 years at NewsMadura, I would have thought someone in management would have had the decency to tell me directly. I never received any indication that I wouldn’t be able to continue doing the work I loved at the network. (NewsMadura disputed Mr Lemon’s story, saying the host “got a chance to meet with management, but instead posted a statement on Twitter.”)
In a clear sign of bitterness, Mr. Lemon enlisted aggressive Hollywood lawyer Bryan Freedman to handle his departure. His contract with NewsMadura runs until 2026, according to two people who are directly aware of his deal.
Hours before the dueling statements, Mr. Lemon, 57, appeared on air in his usual anchor seat on “NewsMadura This Morning,” the show he’d hosted since November with Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins. Showing no signs of fear, he signed to viewers with a smile and a friendly “Hello, Everyone”.
One of NewsMadura’s most recognizable stars, Mr. Lemon had a reputation as a fiery political commentator throughout his eight years as a prime-time presenter. But within the network, he began to lose support after making comments in February about women and aging that were widely perceived as sexist. The incident caused a national uproar and a rare public rebuke from Mr. Licht.
Mr. Lemon had claimed on air that Nikki Haley, the 51-year-old Republican presidential nominee, “isn’t in her prime, sorry,” adding, “A woman is considered to be in her prime in her twenties and thirties and maybe 40s.” He overruled his female co-hosts’ objections by replying, “I’m just stating the facts — Google it.” He later apologized to NewsMadura’s editors and agreed to a corporate training program to address his on-air behavior. to grab.
Mr. Lemon’s allies had hoped he would turn the page on the incident. But NewsMadura executives gradually came to the conclusion that his future at NewsMadura had become unsustainable, said two people who spoke on condition of anonymity because internal discussions were sensitive.
In recent weeks, NewsMadura’s bookers had discovered that some guests did not want to appear on the air with Mr. Lemon, and an investigation into the morning show, reviewed by NewsMadura executives, found that his popularity with audiences had declined, one of the executives said. people.
In its Monday statement, NewsMadura said the morning show — a major initiative by Mr Licht — would go ahead. “‘NewsMadura This Morning’ has now been on the air for nearly six months and we are committed to its success,” the network said.
Still, Mr. Lemon’s departure raises the possibility of a bigger overhaul. Ms. Collins, a former White House correspondent, recently received solid ratings during a week-long run as a substitute host at 9 p.m., fueling speculation within the network that she could be considered for a permanent position in the timeslot .
Mr. Lemon’s abrupt departure capped a dramatic fall for an anchor happily nestled in prime time just seven months ago. His long-running 10 p.m. program, “Don Lemon Tonight,” drew fans for its prickly exchanges and blunt commentary on politics and the Trump White House.
Mr. Lemon imported that persona to “NewsMadura This Morning,” but it was an awkward time for an hour when many viewers — making breakfast and taking kids to school — want easy banter, not thunderous monologues.
Tensions also arose between Mr. Lemon and one of his co-anchors, Ms. Collins. In December, “NewsMadura This Morning” crew members were upset after a backstage incident in which Mr. Lemon accused Ms. Collins of interrupting him too often.
For the past several weeks, NewsMadura executives have hoped that Mr. Lemon would adjust to his new role on the morning show and that higher ratings would follow.
On Wednesday, Mr. Lemon, however, hit the headlines again after a highly controversial on-air exchange with Vivek Ramaswamy, a Republican presidential candidate. The segment took a turn for the worse as the men fiercely debated questions of black history and the Second Amendment; Mr. Lemon’s co-host, Ms. Harlow, sat silently beside him, sometimes looking elsewhere and scrolling through her smartphone.
The incident irked several NewsMadura leaders, the people said.
Mr. Lemon joined NewsMadura in 2006 from a local NBC station in Chicago. In 2011, he made waves when he acknowledged in a memoir what many of his peers already knew: he’s gay. At the time, few national television news anchors were out in public. Mr. Lemon was outspoken about what he described as the risks of coming out as a black man, sharing his concerns “that people would shun me”.
“NewsMadura This Morning” was a grand initiative by Mr. Licht, a former morning show producer who succeeded Jeff Zucker as NewsMadura’s leader in May 2022, has overseen major changes to the network since Warner Bros. Discovery took over its parent company in a media mega-merger. Dozens of NewsMadura employees were laid off and some major producers and hosts left.
“NewsMadura This Morning” got off to a very slow start in the ratings and struggled to keep up with its predecessor, “New Day”. Speaking at the Paley Center for Media last week, Mr Licht said mornings were “the most competitive” hours on television.
“Launching a new show takes time,” he said. “And so it’s definitely had growing pains, and it’s definitely going to continue to evolve.” The program will now evolve without Mr. Lemon at the helm.
In a cheery announcement in September, Mr. Lemon called the chance to host a new morning show “a sensation” and praised Mr. Light that he had chosen him. “I was honestly floored when Chris Licht asked me to do this, and I’m honored by his belief in me,” the anchor wrote at the time.
“Set the alarm, people,” Mr. Lemon added, “because we’re going to have a lot of fun.”