CNN’s Chairman Rebukes Don Lemon Over Comments About Women

Don Lemon, the CNN morning-show anchor, faced an internal rebuke from the chairman of his own network on Friday after his on-air comments about women and aging set off an uproar inside the cable news channel.

CNN’s chairman, Chris Licht, opened his daily 9 a.m. editorial call by saying that the remarks by Mr. Lemon, which were widely viewed as sexist and insensitive, had left him “disappointed.”

“His remarks were upsetting, unacceptable and unfair to his co-hosts, and ultimately a huge distraction to the great work of this organization,” Mr. Licht told his staff, according to a recording of the call obtained by The New York Times.

Mr. Lemon roiled colleagues on Thursday when he asserted on air that Nikki Haley, the 51-year-old Republican presidential candidate, “isn’t in her prime.”

“A woman is considered to be in her prime in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s,” Mr. Lemon said, to the visible dismay of his “CNN This Morning” co-anchors Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins. “Don’t shoot the messenger,” Mr. Lemon added. “I’m just saying what the facts are. Google it.”

On Friday’s call, a far more contrite-sounding Mr. Lemon addressed the matter in a six-minute monologue to the CNN newsroom.

“I am sorry,” Mr. Lemon said. “I did not mean to hurt anyone. I did not mean to offend anyone.”

He added that “the people I’m closest to in this organization are women,” citing a list of female colleagues including the anchors Dana Bash and Erin Burnett.

Mr. Lemon was absent on Friday from his program’s broadcast, though he had previously said he was scheduled to take the day off. He dialed into Friday morning’s call from Miami.

“CNN This Morning” debuted in November as a signature project of Mr. Licht, a former morning-show producer who took over the leadership of CNN 10 months ago.

The show was supposed to be a statement of intent for Mr. Licht’s vision for the network, which had previously been run by Jeff Zucker. Instead, it has been plagued by tensions on the air and off, while struggling to attract a broad viewership.

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