The new management in control of CNN has made a number of changes at the network this year as part of a plan to shift away from partisan punditry and return to the prior standard of delivering the news in a straightforward and unopinionated manner.
One of those changes involved pulling the plug on the low-rated “Don Lemon Tonight” primetime program, and host Don Lemon delivered an emotional final goodbye at the conclusion of his last show on Friday night, the New York Post reported.
Yet, while Lemon may have bid farewell to his primetime program of eight years, he has not left the network and will reappear at a later date on CNN as part of a revamped morning show.
Lemon says goodbye for the last time
As part of his final goodbye to both staff and viewers, Lemon played a montage of clips of some of his show’s “biggest moments” since it first launched in 2014, first as “CNN Tonight” and later rebilled in his own name.
“This is it, the final ‘Don Lemon Tonight.’ It’s a bittersweet moment for me, but it’s not going to be a sad moment. I’m not going to be sad about it,” Lemon said. “I’m just going to miss working with all of the great people who really work their butts off every single day to put this show on the air. So tonight, this isn’t about me, this is about you guys who are in the control room and in this studio. This is about you.”
“I know I was not always perfect because no one is perfect,” he said at one point. “There are immense pressures that come with this job, and in particular, this time slot at 10 p.m., when people are going to bed. So sometimes, all I could do — I’m gonna be honest with you — is just smile and just get to the commercial break sometimes.”
“Sometimes, it was exhausting. Because some of the things that we discuss here are so personal and so consuming, all-consuming. So, I hope I made you proud. And I thank you for tuning in all these years. And I hope that you are going to join me in the morning,” Lemon concluded, according to Mediaite. “So I will simply say good night, and I will see you soon.”
The outlet noted that Lemon appeared to be on the verge of tears as he signed off for the final time after his eight-year run.
Lemon’s primetime slot will now be filled with an as-yet-untitled new two-hour program from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. that will feature co-hosts Alisyn Camerota and Laura Coates, which will run through at least the midterm elections in November, though it is unclear what the network’s full lineup will look like next year.
Demoted to the morning hours
Deadline reported in mid-September that CNN would end Lemon’s primetime show and move him to the morning hours to co-host a new program in the 9-11 a.m. slot alongside co-hosts Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, though a start date for that new show has not yet been announced.
While the network and Lemon spun the move as a positive development, his emotional final send-off perhaps tells a different story, and given Lemon’s perpetually low ratings, it seems obvious that this shift is a demotion for Lemon, regardless of however else it might be portrayed.