The New York Post reported late Thursday on a December 8 incident in which CNN This Morning co-host and prima donna Don Lemon allegedly berated new co-host Kaitlan Collins for interrupting him during the show to the point that, according to one source, Collins became “visibly upset and ran out of the studio.”
Since then, “the cast and crew” are still “rattled” as the show, which launched on November 1, has continued struggle to gain footing and drastically improve on its cancelled predecessor, New Day.
As you can see in the video below, the two repeatedly talked over each other during the show’s busy three hours as the news ranged from the Harry and Meghan Netflix documentary to the Mar-a-Lago radio to Ukraine to Britney Griner’s release from Russia. And as the show wore on, the interruptions increased with Lemon growing less and less accepting.
The Post’s Alexandra Steigard explained that the blowout reached CNN CEO Chris Licht, who hand-picked Collins, Lemon, and co-host Poppy Harlow and “appalled” by Lemon’s outburst. In turn, Licht gave Lemon Friday off. But things didn’t end there (click “expand”):
According to two sources with knowledge of the situation, 56-year-old Lemon approached 30-year-old Collins following the show’s Thursday, Dec. 8, broadcast — and unloaded on her in front of staffers as he accused her of “interrupting” him on air.
“Don screamed at Kaitlan, who was visibly upset and ran out of the studio,” one source with knowledge of the skirmish said.
News of the explosive incident made its way up to CNN CEO Chris Licht, who is said to have been appalled by Lemon’s behavior, according to a source. A second source said a producer talked to Lemon at the behest of Licht and told the anchor to take the next day off to “cool off.”
The following night, the three co-hosts were slated to get drinks and arrive together at a White House Christmas party for the press, a source said. But the pre-party gathering never happened after the emotional day and they trickled into the bash separately, an insider with knowledge said. After the party, Lemon had a late-night dinner with his agent, Jay Sures, according to sources.
The situation was especially awkward because Collins — a rising star who had most recently served as CNN’s youngest chief White House correspondent — is also represented by the powerful and well-connected Sures. While he dined with Lemon, Collins met with the show’s other co-anchor, Poppy Harlow, the sources said.
One of Steigard’s sources added that, not surprisingly, Collins now “wants to be on set with Don as little as possible.”
“Collins and Lemon, meanwhile, have been on set together less frequently since the purported dustup. Lemon was most recently sent to Memphis to quarterback coverage on the death of Tyre Nichols. Collins had been working remotely from Washington, DC, on and off in January,” she noted.
Steigard said this incident had been previously reported, but only “in passing” in a December 9 article by former CNN media reporter and current Puck “partner” Dylan Byers, who said Lemon “skipped” work because of “exhaustion” from a “very tense segment” with the former Daily Caller reporter.
Byers excused Lemon’s blow-up by saying “it’d be hard to blame” him “for being annoyed” and quipped “he’s still a young man”. As Steigard observed, Byers’s behavior here was particularly slimy (as well as a subsequent story knocking Collins’s talent) since Byers, Collins, and Lemon share the same talent agency.
Add in the fact that Steigard said CNN executives have told the drama king to talk less and CNN This Morning’s original executive producer has already been axed and the show has been a complete tirefire.
Last week, the fledgling show had its worst week ever with an average of just 331,000 compared to competitors FNC’s Fox & Friends with almost 1 million and MSNBC’s Morning Joe had 760,000.
It doesn’t take much brainpower to see that this was going to be a problem with Lemon receiving the demotion from weeknight primetime, where he resided from April 2014 through September 2022.
On that front, Steigard’s sources confirmed what Radar had last week, which said Lemon thought Collins and Harlow would serve as “his backup dancers”:
“Don’s a bossy guy and difficult to work with — even he would admit that. He was a solo act before. He doesn’t want to be in Destiny’s Child,” the source added, referring to the music group headlined by Beyoncé in the early aughts.
Others close to Lemon confirmed the former primetime anchor is “not happy” about sharing the limelight with Harlow and Collins.
“Don has an intractable ego,” a source close to both Licht and Lemon said. “My understanding is he wants the show to be about him. I don’t know how you fix that. It’s a very difficult situation.”