By Laura Echevarria, Director of Communications and Press Secretary
Editor’s note. This appears in the April issue of National Right to Life News. Please share the contents of this 49 page edition with your pro-life family and friends.
As CNN tries to find its footing in the ratings game, anchor Don Lemon has all the grace of a bull. In February, Don Lemon insulted a female Republican politician on the air by saying she wasn’t in her “prime.” His argument was that a woman is in her prime in her 20s and 30s—maybe her 40s. In his view, the politician in question—who is 51—“isn’t in her prime.”
And after being challenged on his statement by fellow host, Poppy Harlow, who asked, “Are you talking about prime for childbearing or are you talking about prime for being president?”
Lemon’s response was, “Don’t shoot the messenger! I’m just saying what the facts are! Google it!”
Not done with his heedless observation, Lemon brought up the argument again about an hour later.
Lemon’s comments come at a time when CNN can’t afford to alienate viewers. While Lemon released a statement later the same day saying he regretted his “inartful and irrelevant” statements, the damage was done. According to The New York Times, CNN CEO Chris Licht took Lemon to task during an editorial call saying that Lemon’s statements were “upsetting, unacceptable, and unfair” and noted that they were a “huge distraction.” Something that CNN doesn’t need.
CNN is struggling to find its roots again after years of providing more commentary than true reporting. The damage is deep and as CEO Licht tries to correct core issues that caused CNN to lose viewership, changes at the network have yet to draw viewers back. Instead, viewership among cable news is down across the board but the numbers are especially low for CNN.
According to the Associated Press, Nielson ratings show that Fox News averaged 2.09 million viewers in prime time in March, MSNBC held ground with 1.14 million viewers but CNN saw only 473,000. These numbers can hit CNN’s advertising revenue because advertisers would rather put their money where viewers go.
Only a year into his role, CEO Chris Licht is trying to return CNN to more of a non-partisan role in delivering the news but it is an uphill battle and Don Lemon isn’t helping. For years, Lemon was given free rein on the network with his own show that was largely commentary, reining him in now is a challenge.
Licht has retooled programming and moved Lemon from his evening prime time show (which had low ratings) to a morning program with two other hosts. But it hasn’t brought in the ratings that were expected and Lemon’s observations, such as a female politician not being in her “prime,” are not helping.
Over the years, CNN has alienated more conservative and pro-life viewers and whether the changes can draw viewers back is up for debate. David Zaslav who is the president and CEO of CNN’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery has said he wants to return CNN to a less partisan approach that includes more news and less commentary.
One thing is sure, CEO Licht is making changes and a return to stronger journalistic standards is his touchstone.