During an awkward TV moment on Thursday morning, CNN host Don Lemon dropped what some have claimed to be a sexist comment, saying that Nikki Haley is a woman “past her prime” for a presidential run. The remark was followed by an argumentative exchange between Lemon and his co-hosts, which awkwardly cut to commercial. During the break, his co-host Poppy Harlow promptly left the set. As CNN This Morning opened up on Thursday, there was a noticeable absence of Lemon, to which co-host Kaitlan Collins acknowledged by saying: “Don has the day off.” The argument between Harlow, Collins, and Lemon on TV is believed to be a build-up of off-screen tensions between the three, and following Lemon’s comments about Nikki Haley, it is believed that there is legitimate pressure on CEO Chris Licht to dump Lemon from the network.
NEW YORK POST: Don Lemon absent from ‘CNN This Morning’ after sexist Nikki Haley rant enraged Poppy Harlow
By Ariel Zilber; February 17, 2023
Don Lemon was conspicuously absent from “CNN This Morning” on Friday just 24 hours after he put his foot in his mouth with a sexist comment about 51-year-old Nikki Haley being “not in her prime” — prompting co-host Poppy Harlow to walk off the set.
Friday morning’s awkward broadcast started with a short clip featuring Harlow — who is on location in Salt Lake City, where she is covering NBA All-Star weekend festivities — interviewing TNT’s star basketball commentators Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith.
The camera then panned to co-host Kaitlan Collins, who was seated next to Audie Cornish, the former National Public Radio journalist who was sitting in for the 56-year-old Lemon.
“Don has the day off,” Collins said at the top of the broadcast, failing to elaborate on Lemon’s absence — much less mentioning Thursday’s disastrous blowup — as she introduced Cornish.
“Poppy, as you can see, is in Utah for the NBA All-Star Game, so we’ll get to that and much more in a moment,” Collins tells viewers before she and Cornish tackled the top news stories of the morning.
Lemon, meanwhile, gave a bizarre, rambling apology to coworkers — and earned a scathing rebuke from his boss — Friday over the diatribe.
“The people I am closest to in this organization are women,” Lemon insisted, according to a transcript of his apology obtained by The Post. “The people I seek counsel to first in this organization are women. The person I am closest to is my mother, a woman.”
Lemon’s rant on Thursday has ratcheted up the pressure on CNN boss Chris Licht to fire the former primetime star, The Post has learned.
Lemon on Thursday posted a tweet that read: “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,” Lemon tweeted.
Harlow furiously walked off the set after Lemon’s comments about Haley. The incident took place just weeks after Collins was left visibly upset when Lemon chewed her out in front of other staffers.
A well-placed source told The Post that tensions among Lemon, Collins and Harlow have been “smoldering for months.”
Lemon’s latest blowup could be the final straw that compels Licht to cut ties with the now-disgraced anchor.
“Chris isn’t happy and he has spoken to Don a couple times today,” a network source told The Post on Thursday.
“Don knows it can’t happen again.”
Licht met with staffers during an informal meeting Thursday. One staffer asked Licht about Lemon’s behavior.
“People say stupid things and that if it’s a trend, then there’s recourse,” a source with knowledge of the situation said, paraphrasing Licht’s comments.
CNN did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Lemon didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Harlow did not comment. But a source close to the veteran anchor quipped: “As a woman in her prime, Poppy Harlow does use the bathroom, including on Thursday mornings.”
Photo: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP