Don Lemon says he doesn’t think CNN ‘was ever liberal’

Don Lemon says he doesn’t think CNN ‘was ever liberal’ – but admits network now wants ‘sensible Republicans to come on and feel comfortable’ after new boss Chris Licht made sweeping changes

  • Don Lemon denied that CNN ‘was ever liberal’ while speaking with late night host Stephen Colbert Monday night 
  • Lemon went on to explain that he thinks CNN has only ever tried to hold Republicans ‘accountable’ 
  • He suggested new CEO Chris Licht is just trying to get more ‘sensible Republicans’ to appear on the news channel and ‘be comfortable’
  • Licht, 51, took over as CEO after Jeff Zucker was forced to step down
  • He has since implemented sweeping changes at the station, including moving on-air talent, and is planning for massive layoffs
  • But he has denied that he is trying to make CNN more of a ‘centrist’ platform 

CNN anchor Don Lemon has denied that the cable news network ‘was ever liberal’ — even as he admitted his new boss wants to get more ‘sensible Republicans‘ to appear on the channel.

Lemon made the assertion on Monday after late night host Stephen Colbert asked him about the changes new CEO Chris Licht is making at the network.

‘Word on the street is that you guys aren’t allowed to be liberal anymore. Is that the case?’ Colbert asked Lemon, who now heads CNN’s failing morning show.

‘I don’t think we ever were liberal,’ Lemon replied, to which Colbert seems shocked.  

Lemon then went on to explain that he thinks CNN has only ever tried to hold Republicans ‘accountable.’

‘I think what Chris is saying is that he wants Republicans, sensible Republicans, he wants us to hold people to account, but he wants people to come on and feel comfortable with coming on and talking on CNN and appearing on CNN,’ Lemon said. 

Since taking over the company last spring, Licht  — who previously worked as the executive producer on Colbert’s late night show — has moved on-air talent to other shows, and is now planning for massive layoffs.

He was widely thought to have been tapped to replace ousted CEO Jeff Zucker to seep the opinion out of the news network, which made a name for itself as a major critic of the Trump administration. 

But he has denied claims that he is trying to make the station more centrist, saying CNN needs to keep its ‘edge.’

CNN anchor Don Lemon denied on Monday that CNN ‘was ever liberal’ in an interview with late night host Stephen Colbert

He said he thinks CNN has only ever tried to hold Republicans 'accountable'

He said he thinks CNN has only ever tried to hold Republicans ‘accountable’

New CNN CEO Chris Licht has made sweeping changes to the cable news network since he took over in May from Jeffrey Zucker, who was forced to resign

New CNN CEO Chris Licht has made sweeping changes to the cable news network since he took over in May from Jeffrey Zucker, who was forced to resign

With that in mind, Lemon said he thinks Licht just wants to make Republicans feel comfortable enough to come on the network.

‘So if you invite someone to your house, you want to make them comfortable, but also by the nature of what we do, we have to hold people to account,’ he continued. 

‘And so that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going liberal or conservative or whatever, it just means that we are doing what we do — and that’s good journalism.’

Lemon went on to say that he believes, as a journalist, he sometimes needs to be confrontational with his guests.

‘Look, I don’t think that a conversation on television should be any different than a conversation in person,’ he said, adding: ‘I have confrontational conversations with people I love and I have uncomfortable conversations with people I love, and I think it’s necessary.

‘And I think it’s also necessary to do that on television, on CNN, but you can do that without being vitriolic.

‘As people say, you can disagree without being disagreeable,’ he explained. ‘And so I think that’s what our mission is.’

He had earlier put that philosophy to practice while interviewing former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Len Khodorkovsky about former President Donald Trump meeting with Kanye West and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes.

‘Do you condemn the former president for meeting with anti-Semites, for entertaining anti-Semites and anti-Semitism?’ Lemon asked Khodorkovsky, who is Jewish.

Khordorkovsky initially refused to answer the question, only saying: ‘Let me put it to you this way, I know the president is not an anti-Semite.’

But Lemon kept pushing him on the subject, until he finally said Trump ‘should not have met with Kanye West.’ 

Lemon seemed confrontational when speaking to a Jewish former Trump official on Monday

Lemon seemed confrontational when speaking to a Jewish former Trump official on Monday

He pushed former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Len Khodorkovsky about former President Donald Trump's meeting with Kanye West and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes

He pushed former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Len Khodorkovsky about former President Donald Trump’s meeting with Kanye West and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes

Lemon heads CNN’s new morning show alongside Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins, after previously serving as one of the network’s primetime anchors.

The shake-up was announced by Licht almost immediately after he took over the company and was tasked with finding ways to cut costs as the company’s revenue, ad sales, and profits were down nearly half a billion since its peak.

But Lemon, who has become famous for his strong opinions, has denied the move was a demotion as the new CEO apparently tried to move the cable network more to the center — in line with founder Ted Turner’s idea of ‘making news the star.’

‘This is not someone saying you must move to the right, Don Lemon, and must not give so much of your perspective. None of that has happened,’ Lemon said following the announcement of his job change. ‘All of that is Fodder for Twitter

‘I was not demoted. None of that,’ he added. ‘This is an opportunity. This is a promotion. 

‘This is an opportunity for me to create something around me and I get to work with two great ladies.’ 

But the show has been faltering since it first aired earlier this month, debuting to less than 390,000 viewers even after heavy promotion from the network.

The numbers are dismal in comparison to the show’s competition, including ‘Morning Joe’ on MSNBC, which brought in 793,000 viewers. ‘FOX and Friends,’ saw 1.5 million viewers. 

‘CNN This Morning’ also debuted to 50,000 less viewers on average than the ‘New Day,’ with just 71,000 viewers considered the network’s demographic.

During its final show, ‘New Day,’ the morning show’s predecessor, brought in just over 350,000. That number still only saw 75,000 from the network’s main demographic of adults aged 25-54.

Don Lemon now heads  new morning show with Fat Joe, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins

Don Lemon now heads  new morning show with Fat Joe, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins

The company’s profits have already been plummeting since its steaming service CNN+ was canceled in its infancy and after it lost some of its major anchors, such as Chris Cuomo and Brian Stelter. 

And while all major cable news networks lost viewers since Trump left office, CNN has suffered more than others.

By the end of October, CNN’s viewership sank to a 2015 low, drawing in on 430,000 viewers per day. On election night – which it once dominated – it lost 49 percent of viewers from the last midterms in 2018. 

‘We usually own the night,’ an unidentified CNN journalist told the Financial Times. 

Its cable news subscribers are also expected to drop around 6 percent this year, according to people familiar with the accounts. Executives reportedly don’t see this changing anytime soon as last year decline was similar. 

CNN’s decline in revenue has led to layoffs, as also seen by ABC News and NBCUniversal

‘This has been a hell of a year,’ Licht said at a recent town hall meeting, viewed by the Financial Times. ‘I said in my first town hall how this organization has been taking gut punches. The last thing I want to be is another gut punch. And I know what we are doing right now is another gut punch.’ 

Licht has denied in an interview with the Financial Times that he wants to make the network more centrist, saying it needs to keep its edge

Licht has denied in an interview with the Financial Times that he wants to make the network more centrist, saying it needs to keep its edge

 CNN now faces the biggest political polarization within its audience member’s trust compared to other news sources as Licht seeks to lessen the distinctive political programming and start implementing more informed opinions.

‘If everything is a crisis, if everything is 11, if everything is breaking news, then no one listens when there actually is a crisis. When you say: “No, no — really — the house is on fire now.”‘ 

But he denied in a recent interview with the Financial Times that he wants to make the network centrist, calling the idea ‘bulls**t.’

‘One of the biggest misconceptions about my vision is that I want to be vanilla, that I want to be centrist. That is bulls**t,’ he said.

Licht added: ‘In many cases, you take a side. Sometimes you just point out uncomfortable questions. But either way, you don’t see it through a lens of left or right.’ 

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