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Still Life With Lemon

don lemon
Lemon’s path from CNN primetime star to go-it-alone digital video brand is a story of executive mismanagement all the way down. Photo: Shahar Azran/WireImage
Dylan Byers
March 15, 2024

On Wednesday, Don Lemon entered the CNN headquarters at Hudson Yards for the first time since that memorable day, almost a year ago, when both he and Tucker Carlson were synchronously excommunicated from their respective networks. In the interim, Lemon had summered in the Hamptons, finalized his wedding plans, and netted an eye-popping roughly $20 million payout from the network. Then, like Tucker before him, he reached a deal with Elon Musk to distribute a new show on X, formerly known as Twitter. Not exclusively, mind you: Lemon could broadcast his show on YouTube and other social channels as well; he merely had to generate some additional content for X—10 or so clips a month—that would be exclusive to the platform for 24 hours. For this, Musk was willing to pay Lemon almost $2 million a year, I’m told. In short, it had been a good year.

The catalyst for Lemon’s unexpected homecoming, of course, was the revelation that Musk had abruptly kiboshed their business deal just a week or so before the show’s planned launch. After a contentious interview with Musk for the inaugural episode—Lemon asked about Musk’s drug use, his antisemitic tweets, the general toxicity on X, etcetera—Musk had texted Lemon’s agent, UTA’s Jay Sures, and declared the contract “canceled.”