Lesser-Known Facts About Don Lemon

Don Lemon has been one of the most prominent faces on CNN for nearly two decades. The highly successful journalist joined the news giant in 2006, going on to be the host of his own prime-time show "Don Lemon Tonight" for eight years. Lemon was a prominent figurehead for the network during some of the most defining moments, including the Black Lives Matter Movement and the coronavirus pandemic that gripped the world. He's never shied away from getting down to the nitty-gritty, from asking the tough questions to making controversial statements on air. 

It's almost impossible to imagine Lemon anywhere else but CNN. The Louisiana native has greeted families for their dose of the evening news nearly every night since he began working at the network 17 years ago. He will have to forge new ahead without the network that has hosted him for the majority of his career, however. CNN announced in April 2023 that they would be parting ways with the same man that had often been the face of their network for many years. From allegations of misogynistic behavior to losing his sister tragically, Lemon is no stranger to obstacles in his life. He's got quite the resume as a correspondent, covering Hurricane Katrina and countless natural disasters to earning awards for his reporting on the AIDS epidemic in Africa. He's championed his African American Creole roots and gone the distance when many told him he couldn't. With his career at the time of writing remaining unclear, we're taking a look at some lesser known facts about Don Lemon. 

From humble beginnings to happily-ever-after

Don Lemon was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana — far from the city he now calls home. His storied career had humble beginnings, considering he started as a weekend anchor for local stations in Alabama and Pennsylvania. He worked his way up to becoming a correspondent for NBC News, after which he joined CNN in 2006. One of his boldest declarations occurred in January 2018, when he began his nightly segment with, "This is CNN Tonight, I'm Don Lemon. The President of the United States is racist."

Besides the side of Lemon we see on television, he also has a personal life full of ups and downs, just like anyone else. He announced on Instagram in April 2019 that he was going to tie the knot with his long-time partner and real estate agent, Tim Malone, who also took to social media to announce their engagement.

In the photos, Lemon is holding a dog tag with the words, "Daddy will you marry Papa?" The anchor wrote in the caption, "He gave me a present on his birthday. How could I say no?"

Overcoming a tough past, plus assault allegations

Don Lemon has pushed through some tough times in the past. On air in 2010, Lemon admitted that he was sexually abused as a child. He publicly shared his story during a CNN segment on Georgia Bishop Eddie Long, who was accused of sexually abusing teenage boys. "I have never admitted this on television," Lemon began. "I am a victim of a pedophile when I was a kid. Someone who was much older than me." He didn't even tell his mother about it until he was 30 years old. 

Lemon also faced his own share of assault allegations. Dustin Hice, a bartender from New York, brought suit against Lemon in 2019, claiming the anchor assaulted him the previous year. Lemon's spokesperson said to USA Today, "The plaintiff in this lawsuit has previously displayed a pattern of contempt for CNN on his social media accounts. This claim follows his unsuccessful threats and demands for an exorbitant amount of money from Don Lemon." 

In 2022, Hice dropped the lawsuit. Through his attorney, he said, "After a lot of inner reflection and a deep dive into my memory, I have come to realize that my recollection of the events that occurred on the night in question when I first met CNN anchor Don Lemon were" (via The Independent). Per the outlet, Hice dropped the suit after learning that he'd be responsible for thousands in legal fees for Lemon, because Hice had not submitted require evidence. In addition, two witnesses contradicted Hice's recollection of the alleged event.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit RAINN.org for additional resources.

Don Lemon lost his 'partner in crime'

Sadly, the sexual abuse Don Lemon endured as a child isn't the only tough circumstance he has faced in life. It was confirmed in February 2018 that the reporter's older sister, L'Tanya "Leisa" Lemon Grimes, had drowned at age 58. The Times-Picayune reported that Grimes accidentally fell into a pond in Livingston Parish, Louisiana on January 31, 2018, possibly while fishing, and no foul play was suspected. 

"Thanks everyone for your words of sympathy," Lemon tweeted about the tragedy. "Please keep my family in your prayers. Leisa was my oldest sister & partner in crime growing up. Always had my back." 

The journalist also paid tribute to his big sis after returning back to work at CNN on February 6, 2018, telling viewers, "I am back here sitting with you tonight because this is where she would have wanted me to be. Leisa was so proud of me."

Don Lemon was once Republican

It's no question that the United States public is often divided by their news affiliation. There are those that refuse to get their news from any other station but Fox, and then there are those who swear by CNN. Thus ensues the long-standing claim that Fox leans right and CNN leans left, something many have speculated on but will never be confirmed if either network wants to uphold its journalistic integrity.

Many have attached Don Lemon to a liberal label during his many years corresponding on CNN, due to his many critiques on Donald Trump. The former "Don Lemon Tonight" host has confronted the accusations that the network has a liberal agenda, however, admitting that it comes down to getting to the bottom of a story. 

While journalists don't often openly tout their political affiliations, Lemon revealed in 2018 that he considers himself an Independent. The former CNN correspondent wasn't always that way, as hard as it may be for some to believe. When he was in college, he was a Republican, voting for Ronald Reagan one time, his support waning in the face of Reagan's handling of the burgeoning AIDS crisis. "People expect me to be liberal because I'm gay," he told GQ. "And I'm not liberal." He also disavows the "conservative" label. "You keep saying I have conservative values. I don't. I think I have values that are important and realistic. And they're not necessarily spoon-fed by someone. I thought out what my values should be."

His relationship with Chris Cuomo -- friends or frenemies?

Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo have had a long-standing friendship, or so it looked that way to viewers who witnessed their nightly banter. The two hosts had their own prime-time shows slotted next to each other for years, and they often made cross-over appearances and debated during each others' time slots on air. All that changed, however, when Cuomo was fired from CNN in 2021 due to his involvement in assisting his brother, Governor Andrew Cuomo, during his legal battles after he was accused of sexual assault. 

Long gone were the days when Lemon and Cuomo signed off which "I love you" to each other. First reports of a rift between the pair began in 2022 after Cuomo filed a $125 million dollar lawsuit against CNN in March 2022 for damages and lost wages, alleging the network engaged in favoritism towards certain correspondents. He drug Lemon's name through the suit, claiming that Lemon told "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett that the Chicago police discredited his accusations of a hate crime, which were later revealed to be false. 

The nature of their relationship in the aftermath of the scandals remains a bit unclear. Lemon came out to defend Cuomo around the same time as the lawsuit after his fellow host made joking comments that he was "Black on the inside." In an interview with USA Today, the correspondent said, "Chris is my friend, I know his heart, I know where he's coming from, and I know that it was a joke amongst friends."

He is passionate about fashion

In addition to his passion for breaking news — Don Lemon has quite an affinity for his wardrobe. The former CNN correspondent was named one of the "Top 10 Best-Dressed Newsmen" by Vanity Fair in 2013, and it's a title he doesn't wear out — literally. The journalist walked his first runway in 2017 at the Blue Jacket Fashion Show where proceeds went to prostate cancer research. In an interview with Fashion Week Daily, Lemon described his style as casual, noting that it's not all about the label. "Less is more. For me, it doesn't have to be a big fashion designer," he admitted, adding, "There's nothing better than a white t-shirt and blue jeans. I like to look great on the air, but I don't like going too high-fashion when I'm on." 

The former CNN correspondent made his own waves in the fashion world when he opted to wear a hoodie over his suit jacket on-air in February 2023. His segment went viral, catching the attention of comedian Stephen Colbert. "I know they want to add some comedy to CNN and this is hilarious, but how do you report the news in that outfit?" Colbert joked at the time. Lemon defended his outfit choice, adding that the network encouraged him to dress comfortably. "If Barack Obama can get criticized for a tan suit, if Volodymyr Zelenskyy can fight a war in a hoodie, if Trayvon Martin can start a revolution in a hoodie, then Don Lemon can tell the news in hooded sweater," Lemon admitted.

Accusations of misogyny amidst his CNN firing

CNN and Fox just about broke the internet in April 2023. The networks shocked viewers worldwide when they announced the respective firings of long-time anchor Don Lemon of CNN and Tucker Carlson of Fox News. While the two incidents don't appear to be related, they created a media firestorm involving several accusations about what could have led to the decisions.

Sources inside CNN claim that Lemon has a long history of making provocative remarks, as well as disrespecting his coworkers and fellow reporters. He's allegedly made derogatory remarks about Nancy Grace as well as Soledad O'Brien, and insiders say the former CNN correspondent didn't take well to constructive criticism. Tensions rose when network higher-ups uncovered text messages sent to Phillips by an unidentified number that traced back to Lemon that read, "Now you've crossed the line, and you're going to pay for it."

Lemon also made highly criticized statements attacking Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley, saying she was "past her prime," which many deemed to be inappropriate and sexist. Amidst the accusations against him, CNN announced it would be parting ways with Lemon. The journalist clapped back in his own statement, writing, "After 17 years at CNN I would have thought that someone in management would have had the decency to tell me directly," adding, "At no time was I ever given any indication that I would not be able to continue to do the work I have loved at the network. It is clear that there are some larger issues at play."