Don Lemon apologizes for ‘inartful’ on-air comment about when a woman is ‘in her prime’

Man wearing oversized glasses and a coat and tie, looking toward the right
Don Lemon attends the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Awards Gala on Tuesday, Dec. 6, in New York. He apologized for recent comments about women being in their “prime.”
(Evan Agostini / Invision/AP)

CNN anchor Don Lemon apologized for on-air comments he made Thursday about when a woman is considered to be “in her prime.”

“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,” Lemon tweeted Thursday morning. “A woman’s age doesn’t define her either personally or professionally. I have countless women in my life who prove that every day.”

The moment, which caused tension among his female co-anchors, came during a segment of “CNN This Morning” on Thursday when Lemon suggested that politician Nikki Haley was no longer “in her prime.” The crew had been discussing Haley’s recent announcement that she will run for president in 2024, in which she called for “mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old.” Many took the suggestion as a shot against former President Donald Trump, 76, and President Joe Biden, 80.


Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins will co-anchor ‘CNN This Morning,’ the first major programming change at the network under new boss Chris Licht.

Oct. 29, 2022

“All the talk about age makes me uncomfortable — I think it’s a wrong road to go down,” Lemon began. “She says politicians or something, are not in their prime. Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime — sorry — when a woman is considered to be in her prime in her 20s and 30s, maybe 40s.”

The show’s co-host Poppy Harlow, quickly interjected, telling Lemon to “wait” and asked a couple of times, “Prime for what?”

“That’s not according to me. It’s just like ‘prime,’ if you look it up,” Lemon responded, attempting to clarify, and told Harlow if she Googled, “when is a woman in her prime, it’ll say, 20s, 30s and 40s. I’m not saying I agree with that.”

The Louisiana native, who joined CNN in 2006 and is the only Black cable news anchor in prime time, is clearly energized by having a role in shaping the current national discourse on race relations.

June 10, 2020

As Lemon went on to further caution against Haley’s comments about politicians and age, Harlow returned to his “prime” comment, asking, “Are you talking about prime for child-bearing, or prime for being president?”

“I’m just saying what the facts are,” Lemon retorted, this time asking “everybody at home” to do their own Google search about “a women’s prime.”

The subject resurfaced an hour later when commentator Audie Cornish joined the show. Cornish said Lemon’s “prime” remark referred to a woman’s reproductive years, and not mental health or aging, according to ABC News.


“She’s in her prime for running for office,” Cornish said of Haley. “Political prime is what we’re talking about.”

A CNN spokesperson referred The Times to Lemon’s tweeted apology and did not give any further comment.

At the end of the show’s broadcast, Lemon said he would be off Friday.

The boss of CNN told staffers that on-camera drinking — which has become something of a New Year’s Eve tradition — damages the network’s credibility.

Nov. 17, 2022

Lemon’s remarks on Thursday were not the first some have called into question at CNN.

In December, Lemon is alleged to have screamed at co-host Kaitlan Collins off-camera following a Dec. 8 broadcast, lambasting her for “interrupting” him on-air, according to a New York Post report that cited sources close to the situation.

Collins is fresh off her beat as White House correspondent for CNN with no previous experience as an anchor. Lemon has long been a solo act at CNN, where he had his own prime-time show for nearly nine years.

Michael Bass was Jeff Zucker’s top lieutenant at CNN. He’s leaving after less than a year under new boss Chris Licht.

Nov. 21, 2022

The two joined Harlow in November for the launch of “CNN This Morning,” the first major programming initiative under CNN Chairman Chris Licht, who took the top leadership role at the network last May. However, the program is off to a slow start in the ratings and has generated chatter throughout the TV news industry regarding a rocky relationship among the hosts.

Haley addressed Lemon’s Thursday remarks by tweeting out video of the segment and wrote, “Liberals can’t stand the idea of having competency tests for older politicians to make sure they can do the job. BTW it’s always the liberals who are the most sexist.”


Kate Bennett, a former White House correspondent for CNN, also criticized Lemon. “This is sexism, and completely offensive,” she tweeted. “Also, who over the age of 14 uses ‘google it!’ as a defense.”