UPDATE: Don Lemon: Nikki Haley 'Isn't In Her Prime'—That's For Women in 20s, 30s, and 40s

February 16th, 2023 11:40 AM

Poppy Harlow Don Lemon Kaitlin Collins CNN, CNN This Morning 2-16-22UPDATE: Don Lemon tweeted out a non-apology Thursday afternoon. Read more below.

Multiple choice for readers. Is Don Lemon:

  1. Intellectually challenged.
  2. A misogynist.
  3. A supine shill for Joe Biden.
  4. All of the above?

The question arises after Lemon's pitiful performance on Thursday's CNN This Morning. Responding to Nikki Haley's call on Wednesday for candidates over 75 [looking at you, Biden and Trump!] to be tested for mental competency, Lemon made a pathetic attempt to turn the tables on Haley, saying:

"She says people, you know, politicians or something are not in their prime. Nikki Haley isn't in her prime—sorry. A woman is considered being in her prime in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s. Prime, if you look it up. If you Google, when is a woman in her prime?, it'll say 20s, 30s, 40s."

Lemon's inane claim triggered a shocked response—"What are you talking about? Wait."—from co-host Poppy Harlow [age 40], who celebrated [see screencap] just making it under the "prime" standard Lemon had set. 

In the show's subsequent hour, Lemon was schooled by CNN commentator Audie Cornish. Cornish, formerly of NPR, is a confirmed liberal. But she's also a grown-up who runs intellectual rings around poor Don. 

Literally laughing at one point at Lemon's absurd assertion, Cornish informed Lemon in no uncertain terms:

"You raised the question of that could somehow be a double-edged sword for her. That, you know, she could be out of her prime in some way. That's not how it works . . .No one is going look at Nikki Haley and say, is she in her prime or not? She's in her prime for running for office [laughs.] Political prime is what we're talking about."

Cornish didn't bother to cap her comment by saying, "Don, you nincompoop!"—though the implication was there!

Lemon repeatedly suggested that Haley will be alienating older voters by suggesting that people over 75 be tested for mental competency. Cornish shrugged that off, saying that older voters are smart and can decide whom to vote for. Lemon's claim also runs counter to my personal experience. When I ran for mayor of my small town some years ago, I did a lot of door-to-door campaigning. My opponent, the incumbent mayor, was 72, and concerns about his age and the need for a younger person in office were frequently raised . . . by older voters I met!

With his ignorant comments about women being past their prime, Lemon surely did nothing to endear himself to his co-hosts, Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, or help heal the bad blood after Lemon reportedly lashed out at Collins after a recent show. If Collins is in "her prime," why does he demean her as a babe in the woods?

Then there's this: Someone needs to ask Lemon, just how far past their primes are Nancy Pelosi [82], Hillary Clinton [75], and Michelle Obama [59]?

On Thursday afternoon, Lemon tweeted out a non-apology, keeping his comments focused on women in general with no mention of the former U.N. Ambassador. "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. A woman’s age doesn't define her either personally or professionally. I have countless women in my life who prove that every day," he wrote.



On CNN This Morning, Don Lemon Nikki Haley is not in her prime was sponsored in part by AT&T, General Motors, Downy, and Dove

Here's the transcript.

CNN This Morning 
6:25 am ET

POPPY HARLOW: Many Democrats say that he'll be running against his age in part until a Republican nominee is chosen. In fact, one central message in new Republican candidate Nikki Haley's campaign is that the U.S. needs younger leadership.

NIKKI HALEY: In the America I see, the permanent politician will finally retire. We'll have term limits for Congress! And mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75-years-old.

. . . 

HARLOW: Elder statesmen here?

DON LEMON: This whole talk about age makes me uncomfortable. I think that, I think it's the wrong road to go down. She says people, you know, politicians or something are not in their prime. Nikki Haley isn't in her prime. Sorry. A woman is considered being in her prime in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.

HARLOW: What are you talking about? Wait.

LEMON: That's not according to me.

HARLOW: Prime for what?

LEMON: It depends. It'just like prime. If you look it up. If you Google when is a woman in her prime, it'll say 20s, 30s, 40s.

HARLOW: 40s! Oh, I got in under the tape [throws up hands in celebration.]

LEMON: I'm not saying I agree with that. So, I think she has to be careful about saying that, you know, politicians aren't in their prime.

HARLOW: You have to qualify it. Are you talking about prime for, like, child-bearing or are you talking about prime for being president?

LEMON: I'm just saying what the facts are. Google it. Everybody at home, when is a woman in her prime? It says 20s, 30s, and 40s. And I'm just saying Nikki Haley she should be careful about saying that politicians are not in their prime and, they need to be in prime when they serve. Because she wouldn't be in her prime according to --

HARLOW: Google?

LEMON: Google, or whatever it is.

And you have to be careful because older people vote. Older people watch linear television. Right? And so she has to be careful about turning off a certain constituency who may be her strongest set of supporters.

. . . 

Look, she is raising this. Do you think it is smart? We had the conversation earlier about do you think it's smart for her to do that? Because in that, right, she's, she's going to turn off a lot of older people. And, of course, these are her words. She's bringing this up. That politicians are no longer in their prime. Right? And that was according to her. And so I think she's gonna, she's alienating  --

. . . 

I have to stick up for older people here. Because it feels -- there is something that could feel ageist about this. And it stings, when you say someone is in their prime in their 20s, 30s and 40s. It stings! 

. . .

I'm just simply looking at the people who that traditionally show up to the polls. They usually are older.

AUDIE CORNISH: Yeah, but they're smart and they, you know, they make these decisions about who to vote for. 

And to your point earlier, you know, the idea of prime that you would Google on the internet. That's about sexual and preproductive prime. That's not, actually, about mental health and aging. And there have been so many advances --

LEMON: Those are not my words. Those are Nikki Haley's words.

CORNISH: No, yeah, but to be clear, like, you, you raised the question of that could somehow be a double-edged sword for her. That, you know, she could be out of her prime in some way. That's not how it works. 

I mean, people are really looking at folks who are in their 80s, upper tier, and who they questioning every comment they make, every stumble, every stutter, and pointing to that in the political wars, and some sort of sign of something. That's very different than saying --

LEMON: You have to have the same energy for that. Because there are people who feel offended by that. And again, I'm just, and I think it's individual. I don't think it's based on --

CORNISH: Yeah, but no one is going look at Nikki Haley and say, is she in her prime or not?

LEMON: Well, I don't know. I mean, there may be some people who would say, because, again, I don't think people would be saying that if she didn't bring it up. It was her, her words.

CORNISH: Yeah: she's in her prime for running for office [laughs.} I think that is the thing. Political prime is what we're talking about.