The 56-year-old newscaster made headlines on February 16 after making a sexist comment about Haley’s age. While discussing the 51-year-old former governor of South Carolina’s bid for the presidency on CNN This Morning, Lemon claimed that Haley is past her “prime.”
“She says people, politicians are not in their prime,” he said, referring to the former United Nations Ambassador’s idea to implement “mental competency tests” for political leaders over the age of 75. “Nikki Haley is not in her prime, sorry. A woman is considered to be in her prime in her 20s, 30s and maybe her 40s.”
Cohost Poppy Harlow asked her colleague to clarify his stance, questioning whether he meant Haley was beyond her “prime for childbearing” or “prime for being president.”
Lemon proceeded to double down, responding: “If you Google, ‘when is a woman in her prime,’ it’ll say 20s, 30s, and 40s. … I’m not saying I agree with that so I think she has to be careful about saying that [politicians aren’t in their prime].”
The comment quickly sparked controversy among viewers and political pundits — and Haley herself was quick to fire back at Lemon’s remark. “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+,” she quipped via Twitter on February 16.
Lemon’s flub prompted a lively debate on social media. “Hey Ladies -@donlemon thinks women over 50 are past their prime! Let’s start #primetime and list some of the things we’ve accomplished in these glorious later years. I’ll start,” Patricia Heaton tweeted on February 17 as the former Today correspondent sat out from his CNN show.
Heaton, 64, went on to name some of her recent career highlights, from publishing her book Your Second Act: Inspiring Stories of Reinvention to producing the CBS sitcom Carol’s Second Act.
Lemon issued a statement via social media apologizing for his “irrelevant” commentary on Haley’s age, but he did not immediately return to the air. Sara Sidner filled in during the February 20 broadcast of the network’s morning show.
According to CNN, Lemon was given a chance to address his coworkers during the company’s February 17 editorial meeting. “I’m sorry that I said it,” the Transparent author noted to the staff. “And I certainly see why people found it completely misguided. When I make a mistake, I own it. And I own this one as well.”
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