Lemon’s Lightning

Don Lemon seems to have been given every warning to self-edit before saying what’s on his mind, which, coincidentally, is the one thing that actually delivers ratings.
Don Lemon seems to have been given every warning to self-edit before saying what’s on his mind, which, coincidentally, is the one thing that actually delivers ratings. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
February 24, 2023

This week, while CNN C.E.O. Chris Licht was trying to bring a modicum of closure to the enduring Don Lemon “women-in-their-prime” fiasco, a national media micro-imbroglio that has become a microcosm of the network’s various challenges—tighter budgets, falling ratings, more fragile egos, ever newer data sets that a bygone era keeps endingCharles Barkley decided to weigh in. The ever-candid Hall of Fame basketball player and star analyst of The NBA on TNT, who also happens to be up for a role on CNN, offered his own candid assessment of the news network’s current predicament in an interview with the New York Post.

As I reported earlier this month, Barkley is one of a handful of marquee talents that Licht is trying to bring in to revitalize CNN’s prime-time lineup, albeit in a part-time capacity. In the Post interview, Barkley confirmed that Licht was courting both him and Gayle King, as I’d also reported last month. He then revealed that Licht was trying to get the two stars to co-host a weekly show together. (They would both keep their day jobs on TNT and CBS, respectively.) Sir Charles equivocated. “We don’t have anything set in stone,” Barkley said. “I’m only considering it because of my respect for Gayle.”

But the real morsel came later in the interview, when Barkley offered a characteristically honest and unvarnished diagnosis of CNN. “I just want to help the company because obviously it is a shit show right now,” Barkley said. “Anything I can do to help.”