Tension between former CNN colleagues Don Lemon and Soledad O’Brien is one of several bombshells unearthed in a new report detailing Lemon’s alleged hostile off-screen behavior at the network.
In an exposé published by our sister site Variety on Wednesday, more than a dozen of Lemon’s former and current colleagues outlined a pattern of allegedly misogynistic, inappropriate and “diva-like” behavior at the cabler. One of the chronicled incidents took place in 2008, ahead of the launch of CNN’s Black in America docuseries, a high-profile hosting opportunity that Lemon was reportedly upset to lose to O’Brien.
Sources who attended an editorial call with Lemon at the time claim that he suggested O’Brien isn’t Black, with an anonymous colleague adding that Lemon “always wanted to be front and center on anything high-profile, especially anything involving race.”
O’Brien was not on the call in question, but gave the following response to Variety about Lemon’s alleged comment: “Don has long had a habit of saying idiotic and inaccurate things, so it sounds pretty on brand for him.”
“Don, Soledad and others have in the past correctly referred to her Afro-Cuban heritage as it is a unique part of her personal story,” a CNN spokesperson countered. “But Don denies making any related remark in a derogatory way.”
Variety‘s deep dive into Lemon’s behavior comes nearly two months after he received backlash for a sexist statement he made on CNN This Morning in February. At the time, Lemon said former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley — who had just announced her run for presidency — wasn’t “in her prime,” adding that women are “considered to be in their prime in their 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.” Lemon sat out several subsequent broadcasts of the daily program after his comments sparked criticism, and he agreed to participate in “formal training” upon returning to the show.
“I appreciate the opportunity to be back on @CNNThisMorning today,” Lemon tweeted on Feb. 22. “To my network, my colleagues and our incredible audience — I’m sorry. I’ve heard you, I’m learning from you, and I’m committed to doing better.”