Don Lemon Apologizes for Remarks About When Women Are in Their “Prime”


Feb. 17 2023, Published 1:41 p.m. ET

Don Lemon
Source: Getty Images

Newscaster Don Lemon was conspicuously absent from CNN This Morning on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, one day after sparking outrage with his on-air comments about Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor now seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2024. So, what did Don Lemon say about Nikki Haley?

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After Nikki called for “mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old,” Don made cringe-worthy remarks about her age and when women are “in their prime.”

What did Don Lemon say about Nikki Haley?

Nikki Haley
Source: Getty Images

“She says people — you know, politicians or something — are not in their prime,” Don said on Thursday’s show. “Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime, sorry, when a woman is considered being her prime in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s. That’s not according to me.”

CNN This Morning co-host Poppy Harlow, looking astonished, asked Don what he was talking about. “Prime for what?” she asked.

“It depends,” Don said. “I mean… if you Google when is a woman in her prime, it’ll say 20s, 30s, and 40s.”

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“‘40s.’ Oh, I got another decade,” Poppy, 40, responded with mock relief.

“I’m not saying I agree with that,” Don added. “So I think [Haley] has to be careful about saying that, you know, politicians aren’t in their prime,” Don replied.

“I think we need to qualify,” Poppy pointed out. “Are you talking about prime for, like, childbearing, or are you talking about prime for being president?”

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“Don’t shoot the messenger!” Don replied. “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.” (According to Slate, a Google search doesn’t actually return credible sources with answers to that question.)

The 56-year-old later apologized for his “inartful and irrelevant” comments — and Nikki responded.

By midday on Feb. 16, Don was already making his apologies. “The reference I made to a woman’s ‘prime’ this morning was inartful [sic] 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.”

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Nikki then quote-tweeted Don’s apology, adding, “To be clear, I am not calling for competency tests for sexist middle-aged CNN anchors; only for people who make our laws and are 75+.”

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CNN chairman Chris Licht called Don’s comments “upsetting, unacceptable, and unfair.”

During CNN’s daily editorial call on Feb. 17, CNN chairman Chris Licht told colleagues that he was “disappointed” by Don’s comments. “His remarks were upsetting, unacceptable, and unfair to his co-hosts, and ultimately a huge distraction to the great work of this organization,” Licht said during the call, according to The New York Times.

Don also apologized during the meeting, “I’m sorry that I said it. And I certainly see why people found it completely misguided,” he said, per CNN Business. “When I make a mistake, I own it, and I own this one as well.”

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