CNN prime-time host Don Lemon on Thursday night addressed news of his next role at the network, saying he “was not demoted” with the shift to an anchoring gig on what will be CNN’s reimagined morning show this fall.
Lemon said he was presented by new network President Chris Licht with an opportunity he “cannot pass up,” adding that the vision for the new program is one that would “kick off the editorial direction of the network every day.”
“And for all of those that are out there saying, ‘Oh he moved me without my …’ — he asked me and I said yes,” Lemon said. “I could have said no. … I was not demoted. None of that. This is an opportunity for me to creating something around me and I get to work with two great ladies, who you know.”
Licht on Thursday morning announced CNN was revamping its flagship morning show “New Day” and tapping Lemon, daytime anchor Poppy Harlow and reporter Kaitlin Collins as its new hosts.
The move comes as Licht and CNN look to retool the outlet’s editorial direction amid declining ratings since former President Trump left office and criticisms from some on the right that voices on the network had become too partisan under former President Jeff Zucker.
Lemon said, “This is not someone saying ‘You must move to the right, Don Lemon, you must not be so — give so much of your perspective.’”
Licht, a veteran of morning television who rose through the ranks of the news business as a founding producer of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and later “CBS This Morning,” has made a number of personnel and programming decisions since taking over at CNN in May that have been met with scrutiny inside and outside of the network.
Moving Lemon to his new morning show will also create another hole in CNN’s prime-time lineup. The network has still not found a full-time replacement for former anchor Chris Cuomo, who was fired by Zucker last year following a personal and professional conduct scandal.