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April 05, 2023

Are the Long Woke Knives Finally Coming for Don LeMon? A Nasty, Woman-Threatening Texts Is Leaked

Thanks to Anonosaurus Wrecks, Variety covers the turbulent and stupid history of Don LeMon.

Back in 2008, Don Lemon was co-anchoring CNN's "Live From" weekday show with Kyra Phillips, a gig that he landed after he arrived at the network two years prior from local news in Chicago. For months, tensions between the pair kept mounting. On more than one occasion, a "Live From" producer and a newsroom supervisor had to pull Lemon off the air during a commercial break because of the anchor's provocative antics, not unlike his recent declaration that the 51-year-old Nikki Haley isn't a viable presidential candidate because she "isn't in her prime." Amid the charged atmosphere, sources say Lemon disrespected colleague Nancy Grace on the air and Soledad O'Brien during an editorial meeting attended by roughly 30 staffers.


But his antipathy toward Phillips was particularly concerning and had many members of the close-knit Atlanta news team on edge. While Phillips was on assignment in Iraq -- a high-profile gig that Lemon coveted -- he vented his disappointment at being passed over by tearing up pictures and notes on top of and inside Phillips' desk in the news pod they shared, according to two sources who worked there at the time. When she returned from Iraq, things only got weirder. One night while dining with members of the news team, she received the first of two threatening text messages from an unknown number on her flip phone that warned, "Now you've crossed the line, and you're going to pay for it." Phillips was visibly rattled and quickly enlisted CNN's higher ups to identify the sender.

Remarkably, the texts were traced back to Lemon, according to those same sources. A human resources investigation was launched, and while the findings were never disclosed to the growing pool of staffers who were aware of the situation, Lemon was abruptly pulled from his co-anchor duties with Phillips and moved to the weekends. It was a demotion by any objective measure and understood to be some kind of disciplinary action. It appears to be the last time he was paired with a female anchor until his most recent assignment on "CNN This Morning With Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins."

Phillips, who joined ABC as a Washington-based correspondent in 2018, declined comment. A spokesperson for CNN said, "Don says the alleged incident never occurred and that he was never notified of any investigation. CNN cannot corroborate the alleged events from 15 years ago."


...

Those who worked with him say he was a shameless name dropper and left behind hints that he socialized with important people, like a hand-written note from Stedman Graham that he had taped on his computer.

It's just sad that he thinks that a note from Oprah's Do-Nothing Beard is some kind of major status-conferrer.

Some were unnerved by his talk of his previous lawsuits, believing it signaled that he was litigious. He frequently let drop that he successfully sued Tower Records as well as the Chicago PD for racial profiling and didn't need to worry about money thanks to the settlements. (Variety can only find record of the former, which was settled in 2001 and appears to be sealed. Through a CNN spokesperson, Lemon says he never sued the Chicago PD). All the while, he began openly dating a fresh-out-of-college staffer despite a major age difference and power imbalance. (Lemon was 41, while the staffer was 22.) The ambitious anchor, who is gay, was not out of the closet at the time, but wasn't hiding it either. The pair would drive to work together in Lemon's car and began a long-term open relationship. Dating a junior employee was frowned upon at the time.

"As fast as you could make a rule, Don would bend it," says one senior executive at the time.

More troubling was his misogynistic behavior, multiple sources say. Lemon called one of his producers fat to her face. Not long before he was identified as sending threatening texts to Phillips, he mocked Grace on air by mimicking her, shocking fellow colleagues. Grace declined comment but a person close to her tells Variety that "she thinks he's an ass" and that he was always "rude, dismissive and really unfamiliar with the [news] content being discussed."

"That was the beginning of when you knew that Don was kind of volatile and didn't say good things about women," says a witness to the Grace incident.

If Lemon felt threatened by Grace, the biggest star at CNN/Headline News at the time, she wasn't the only one. He was upset that O'Brien landed the gig of hosting CNN's high-profile "Black in America" docuseries, which launched in 2008. During an editorial call attended by roughly 30 staffers, he suggested O'Brien isn't Black, according to two witnesses, who found the characterization wildly offensive. "Don always wanted to be front and center on anything high profile, especially anything involving race," says a colleague.

There's more, of varying levels of seriousness, but I've excerpted the biggest stuff. It reminds everyone that LeMon sent a text of emotional support to Juicy Smolliet, and then refused to recuse himself from the story, and also refused to turn over his texts to the cops.

The article refuses to make any mention at all of Don LeMon's alleged and nasty sexual assault on a bartender. Apparently, for some people's sexual improprieties, the moment you pay your victim off, it becomes officially a Non-Crime.


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posted by Ace at 01:10 PM

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