Longtime CNN prime time host Don Lemon is “closing the curtain” on his evening show and moving to mornings, CNN announced Thursday morning. He will be joining two other familiar faces from the network, Poppy Harlow, and Kaitlan Collins, for an as-yet-unnamed new morning news program that will debut later this year.
The move, reported by Mediaite, is the first major shake-up in CNN’s lineup since the arrival of new CNN CEO Chris Licht. Lemon had been a staple of the prime time lineup at CNN under Jeff Zucker. The network is expected to make more changes to fill the gap Lemon leaves behind as well as reassign John Berman and Brianna Keilar, who currently co-host CNN’s New Day.
New Day will be replaced by the show helmed by Lemon, Harlow, and Collins.
“There is no stronger combination of talent than Don, Poppy and Kaitlan to deliver on our promise of a game-changing morning news program,” said Licht in a press release. “They are each uniquely intelligent, reliable and compelling; together they have a rare and palpable chemistry. Combined with CNN’s resources and global newsgathering capabilities, we will offer a smart, bold and refreshing way to start the day.”
In the same release, Lemon expressed gratitude to CNN and his audience.
“The last eight years have been an incredible ride. I’ve had the opportunity to work with one of the best show teams in the business, but it’s time to shake things up. I am so appreciative of the Don Lemon Tonight team, my wonderful, loyal viewers and everyone who has believed in me,” said Lemon. “I was honestly floored when Chris Licht asked me to do this and I’m honored by his belief in me. It’s going to be a thrill to take on this challenge with Poppy and Kaitlan. I’ll get to work with two of my dearest friends. Set your alarms folks, because we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
This is a major ideological shake-up at CNN, which has come under fire from progressives for “becoming the new Fox News” (and, no, I’m not making that up). With the departure of John Harwood and other ideologues from the network, the left has accused figures like Jake “MAGA” Tapper of becoming more and more like Tucker Carlson.
Jake MAGA Tapper attacked MSNBC and said “I guess some commentators have a difficult time stripping out the politics.” Then, minutes later, Jake said it would be “clever” for Biden to “invite Trump” to Queen Elizabeth’s funeral. Jake Tapper is the new Tucker Carlson. #BoycottCNN
— Dash Dobrofsky (@DashDobrofsky) September 9, 2022
Jake Tapper is the Tucker Carlson of CNN.
— Trending Liberal (@TrendingLiberal) September 10, 2022
There had been previous speculation on who might be next to get the boot from the network, with some of that speculation being over Lemon’s future. However, Lemon is too big a star at the network to suddenly boot without explanation, and could wind up hurting the network’s already-dismal ratings. Moving him to mornings, where his ideological bent and conversational (and sometimes confrontational) nature can be utilized without dominating the network’s image, is a smart move for the company to make.
It is a fascinating shake-up to watch, and a sign that, while obviously not turning into Fox News, CNN’s leadership is looking to shake-up what had been a drag on its numbers and reputation.