Don Lemon will not appear on Monday’s edition of CNN This Morning, missing the show amid controversy over comments about women he made last week that led to an apology on Twitter and to staffers.
Lemon is taking the holiday break, a CNN rep confirmed. He was absent from Friday’s show because of pre-scheduled time off. Sara Sidner is expected to fill in, joining co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins.
In a staff call on Friday, CNN Chairman and CEO Chris Licht called Lemon’s comments on Thursday’s show “unacceptable,” while Lemon apologized to staffers after earlier tweeting out his regret at making the comments.
In a segment of CNN This Morning on Thursday, Lemon and his co-hosts were talking about GOP presidential contender Nikki Haley’s proposal that candidates over the age of 75 take competency tests.
Lemon said that “this talk about age makes me uncomfortable,” but then added, “Nikki Haley is not in her prime, sorry, when a woman is considered to be in her prime is her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.”
Harlow then stopped him.
“Wait,” Harlow said. “Prime for what?”
“It depends. It’s just like prime, if you look it up. If you Google, ‘when is a woman in her prime, it will say, ’20s, 30s and 40s.’”
The Daily Beast first reported that Lemon would be absent in a change to the scheduled lineup for Monday’s show. While the publication reported that there are conversations about Lemon’s future, that was challenged by a source at the network, who suggested that it was his own decision. The Thursday incident, which drew widespread criticism, including from Haley, has led to Lemon being followed by paparazzi and was the subject of the front page of the New York Post. It also has only heightened the scrutiny on the co-hosts’ chemistry, viewed as a central feature to making any morning show work. Lemon hosted his own nighttime show, heavier in analysis and opinion, from 2014 until last fall, when he exited for the morning show gig.
The revamped morning show has been a signature feature of Licht’s plans to revitalize the network. Lemon, Collins and Harlow debuted as the hosts of the revamped morning show in November, but the show trails its cable news rivals among total viewers. Network executives, though, have said that it takes time to build an audience in an ultra-competitive daypart.