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Don Lemon to return to CNN, will undergo formal training following sexist comments, network boss says

<i>Anthony Behar/Sipa USA/AP</i><br/>CNN anchor Don Lemon
Sipa USA via AP
Anthony Behar/Sipa USA/AP
CNN anchor Don Lemon

By Oliver Darcy, CNN

CNN anchor Don Lemon will return to the network’s air on Wednesday and will participate in formal training following sexist comments he made last week, the network’s chief executive, Chris Licht, said in an email to employees Monday night.

“I sat down with Don and had a frank and meaningful conversation,” Licht wrote in a memo. “He has agreed to participate in formal training, as well as continuing to listen and learn. We take this situation very seriously.”

“It is important to me that CNN balances accountability with … fostering a culture in which people can own, learn and grow from their mistakes,” Licht added. “To that end, Don will return to CNN This Morning on Wednesday.”

Lemon previously apologized to employees for his comments, which prompted internal and external backlash, during Friday’s daily editorial meeting.

“When I make a mistake, I own it,” Lemon said. “And I own this one as well.”

Lemon made the sexist comments during a Thursday discussion on “CNN This Morning” over former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s presidential candidacy.

When declaring her run for the presidency, Haley called for mental competency tests for politicians over the age of 75. Lemon argued that Haley, 51, “isn’t in her prime.”

Lemon attempted to support his argument by saying that a woman is only “considered to be in their prime in 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.”

The comments were met with pushback from co-anchors Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, but Lemon kept advancing his argument, even doubling down on it in a segment in the following hour.

Haley herself weighed in later in the day on Twitter, attacking Lemon for the comments and even using them to fundraise.

During CNN’s Friday editorial meeting, Licht, the network’s chief executive, said that he had heard from a number of people inside the organization about Lemon’s remarks.

Licht described Lemon’s comments as “unacceptable” and said they were “unfair to his co-hosts.”

Licht added that he believed it was necessary to foster a culture of accountability and felt it was important for Lemon to appear at the morning meeting, which took place virtually, so that he could apologize.

Lemon thanked Licht for the opportunity to directly address staffers and said that he wanted to be “really clear” about his regret for making the comments.

“I believe that women of any age… can do whatever they set their minds to,” Lemon said.

“The people I am closest to in this organization are women,” Lemon added, citing his relationships with various hosts and executives. “The people I seek counsel from most in this organization are women.”

Lemon has not appeared on CNN’s air since he made the comments.

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