CNN divides viewers with decision to allow Don Lemon to return to air upon completion of ‘formal training’

CNN viewers are divided after the network announced Don Lemon would be returning to CNN This Morning after first undergoing “formal training” following controversial comments he made about Nikki Haley not being “in her prime”.

The CNN anchor has been embroiled in controversy since Thursday’s episode of CNN This Morning, when he claimed that Haley, who announced her presidential campaign last week, should not be critical of politicians’ ages because of her own age.

“This whole talk about age makes me uncomfortable. I think it’s the wrong road to go down. She says people, you know, politicians or something are not in their prime,” Lemon said. “Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime, sorry. A woman is considered to be in their prime in 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.”

After pushback from Lemon’s co-anchor Poppy Harlow and later viewers, the news anchor said in a statement that he regretted his “inartful and irrelevant” comments, which many deemed “sexist” and “misogynistic”.

“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,” he wrote on Twitter. “A woman’s age doesn’t define her either personally or professionally. I have countless women in my life who prove that every day.”

In a statement to employees on Monday night, CNN CEO Chris Licht said that Lemon would return to the morning show on Wednesday after he receives “formal training,” according to CNN Business.

Lemon has not been on-air since Thursday’s episode of CNN This Morning. He was absent from the show on Friday because of a pre-planned vacation day.

The announcement Lemon would be undergoing formal training has divided viewers, with some suggesting the anchor should not need training to know his comments were inappropriate.

“So he did not receive any training prior to accepting this role or any training during the course of his career on television…okay,” one person tweeted.

Another said: “Funny how CNN refuses to fire on-air talent for obvious transgressions. Does anyone really think Lemon will change his thinking about women after his brief training session?”

Someone else sarcastically suggested that Lemon should “Google” how to behave, after he encouraged viewers to “Google” a woman’s prime while discussing Haley’s age. “Hope he Googled how to behave next time,” they wrote.

Others claimed that CNN’s decision to return Lemon to air was “disrespectful” to his co-anchors, Harlow and Kaitlan Collins.

“How disrespectful to Poppy and Kaitlan. It was obvious that they were upset by his lack of respect towards women,” one person wrote.

There were also some who believed that Lemon should make a return to the morning show. One viewer said they hoped that the anchor has “learned from his mistake”.

“I’m not opposed to his return. Hopefully he’s learned from his mistake,” they wrote.

In Monday’s email, Licht said he had a “frank and meaningful” conversation with Lemon after the anchor’s controversial comments and that Lemon had agreed to participate in the formal training “as well as continuing to listen and learn”.

Licht also assured employees that CNN takes the situation “very seriously,” before concluding: “It is important to me that CNN balances accountability with a fostering a culture in which people can own, learn and grow from their mistakes. To that end, Don will return to CNN This Morning on Wednesday.”

During Thursday’s episode, Harlow had challenged her co-anchor’s statements on-air, asking: “Are you talking about prime for child bearing or are you talking about prime for president?”

Harlow also reportedly walked off set after the exchange, according to the New York Post.

The Independent has contacted CNN and a representative for Lemon for comment.