CNN anchor Don Lemon apologized to his colleagues on Friday over sexist remarks he made on the network’s morning show about when women are “in their prime,” telling staffers during the company’s daily editorial meeting that he was sorry for offending them.
“I’m sorry that I said it,” Lemon said. “And I certainly see why people found it completely misguided.”
“When I make a mistake, I own it,” Lemon added. “And I own this one as well.”
Lemon made the comments about women during a Thursday discussion on “CNN This Morning” over former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s presidential candidacy, drawing swift and fierce backlash.
When declaring her run for the presidency, Haley called for mental competency tests for politicians over the age of 75. Lemon argued that Haley herself “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, Chris 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 did not appear on “CNN This Morning” Friday, but his absence had been planned ahead of the controversy and was announced Thursday on air.
Lemon also apologized for his remarks in a tweet on Thursday afternoon.
“The reference I made to a woman’s ‘prime’ this morning was inartful and irrelevant, as colleagues and loved ones have pointed out, and I regret it,” Lemon said. “A woman’s age doesn’t define her either personally or professionally,” he added. “I have countless women in my life who prove that every day.”