Don Lemon's $25 Million CNN Contract Dispute Heats Up in Possible Legal Showdown

Don Lemon's $25 Million CNN Contract Dispute Heats Up in Possible Legal Showdown
Cover Image Source: Getty Images| Photo by Cindy Ord

A “stunned” Don Lemon announced on Monday morning that CNN fired him after 17 years amid a sexism scandal. According to Page Six, the 51-year-old former co-host of CNN This Morning had signed a high $7 million-a-year contract with CNN in September that runs until 2026. The disgraced anchor is now leaving the network with at least $25 million but has still lawyered up for a potential legal battle with his former employer. Lemon, 

New York Post reports that the former CNN anchor expressed his vexation with a fiery tweet on Monday. Lemon claimed to have been blindsided by the news, saying he was informed that CNN fired him via his agent, UTA’s Jay Sures. “I was informed this morning by my agent that I have been terminated by CNN. I am stunned after 17 years at CNN I would have thought that someone in management would have the decency to tell me directly,” Lemon wrote.


Meanwhile, Lemon has hired high-powered Los Angeles entertainment attorney, Bryan Freedman to secure his exit and probe whether the former anchor is entitled to a further settlement. Freedman is the co-founder of the law firm Freedman & Taitelman LLP and is also representing Lemon’s former CNN colleague Chris Cuomo — who remains in arbitration with CNN and is demanding $125 million for being fired. Cuomo was canned in 2021 for advising his brother, then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, during the latter’s public scandals. 

A source with knowledge of Lemon’s deal at CNN said: “Don was signed on a high seven-figure deal for the morning show last September, and is assured by CNN he will be paid the remainder of his contract, which runs until 2026. He has retained lawyer Bryan Freedman to conclude this deal, and also to investigate if Don could be eligible to further damages surrounding the conditions of his exit.”

GettyImages| Photo by Dominik Bindl
Image Source: GettyImages| Photo by Dominik Bindl

In response to Lemon's fiery tweet, CNN then released a statement denying Lemon’s claim, saying: “Don Lemon’s statement about this morning’s events is inaccurate. He was offered an opportunity to meet with management but instead released a statement on Twitter.”

Sources revealed it was not a single incident that caused CNN and Lemon to part ways. CNN management saw that Lemon’s outbursts and bad behavior were not “getting better” and were part of a “pattern,” making it clear that the situation was no longer tenable. 



According to BBC, Don Lemon landed in hot water earlier this year due to the comments he made about Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley, a former UN ambassador and governor of South Carolina. Haley was not "in her prime", Lemon said in February, a remark widely decried as sexist. "When a woman is considered to be in her prime - in her 20s, 30s and maybe her 40s," he said. "I'm just saying what the facts are - Google it," he added, in response to objections from his female co-hosts, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins.

Lemon issued a statement on the same day saying he regretted his "inartful and irrelevant" comments. He also apologized to the newsroom and agreed to partake in "mandatory training" to address the incident. But the remarks sparked widespread criticism, including from actress Michelle Yeoh, 60, who appeared to reference the comments in her Oscar acceptance speech last month, saying: "Ladies, don't let anybody tell you you're ever past your prime."

GettyImages| Photo by Mike Coppola
Image Source: GettyImages| Photo by Mike Coppola


The show will continue with Lemon's former co-hosts, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, the network said. They opened their Tuesday morning segment with remarks on Lemon's departure. "Of course Don was a big part of this show over the last six months. He was one of the first anchors on CNN to have me on his show - that's something I'll obviously never forget," said Kaitlan Collins. Poppy Harlow added her own tribute, calling Lemon "one of my first friends here at CNN". "I'm so thankful to have worked along side him and for his support for nearly 15 years here and I wish him all good things ahead," she said.

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