CNN ended last week the same way it ends every week: by misleading its viewers. On Friday, host Don Lemon convinced his audience that CNN had canceled his show, and his viewers had just watched its “last night.”
Lemon teased an important “announcement” during his opening banter with his colleague Chris Cuomo. “Listen, I’ve got something I’m going to say at the end of the show. I want everybody to tune in. I think it’s really important,” he said. “And I hope everyone is OK with it.”
During their traditional conversation during the hand-off, Lemon told the “Cuomo Prime Time” host that his news “involves us, too.”
“And it’s not bad news?” Cuomo asked.
“I’m not — well, come on,” Lemon replied, before saying, “I don’t think it’s bad.”
He closed his program, which usually airs from 9 to 11 p.m. Eastern, one hour early by saying:
So, earlier I told you I had an announcement, and I do. It’s been really, really great. This is the last night that will be “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.” So, I appreciate all the years of “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.” But changes are coming, and I will fill you in. But until then, I am very proud of my CNN special about Marvin Gaye’s groundbreaking album, “What’s Going On?”
The network then aired Lemon’s documentary on the famous singer.
#WATCH: Here's the moment @DonLemon announced that he will no longer host @CNNTonight 📺
But on Twitter, he confirmed he is NOT leaving the network, telling viewers to "tune in on Monday and I’ll explain."#6NewsAU #CNN #CNNTonight #DonLemon | https://t.co/eU0kSS8FVw pic.twitter.com/BLyIGafVP8
— 6 News Australia (@6NewsAU) May 15, 2021
Lemon’s phrasing and demeanor filled social media with buzz that the network had abruptly ended his seven-year-long tenure as a prime time anchor.
“CNN viewers panic after Don Lemon’s announcement about his show,” reported … CNN.
“The on-air announcement sparked concerns among fans that Lemon was leaving CNN,” according to The Hill. “Internet panics after announcement,” the Los Angeles Times claimed.
Lemon rushed out a tweet half an hour after his sign-off, telling people to watch his show on Monday if they wanted the details:
Hey everyone. Not what you think. I’m not leaving CNN. Tune in for the handoff on Monday at 10pE and I’ll explain.
Hey everyone. Not what you think. I’m not leaving CNN. Tune in for the handoff on Monday at 10pE and I’ll explain. pic.twitter.com/oOwDferY2i
— Don Lemon (@donlemon) May 15, 2021
Lemon ended the charade on Saturday by saying that he “didn’t mean to set the internet on fire.” The show is simply being renamed “Don Lemon Tonight”:
What I said last night was true. CNN Tonight with Don Lemon is no more. I’ll be back on Monday with my newly named show Don Lemon Tonight. See you Monday at 10pE.
Didn’t mean to set the internet on fire. What I said last night was true. CNN Tonight with Don Lemon is no more. I’ll be back on Monday with my newly named show Don Lemon Tonight. See you Monday at 10pE. pic.twitter.com/89GFXULV9m
— Don Lemon (@donlemon) May 15, 2021
“CNN Tonight with Don Lemon” went on the air in 2014 as “CNN Tonight,” with a rotating cast of hosts. Lemon became the permanent host later that year.
Some tried to spin the dubious nature of the apparent PR stunt. A statement obtained by Grabien Media founder Tom Elliott attributed Lemon’s widescale deception to his “mischievious streak.”
If that’s what you want to call it pic.twitter.com/XQw7ycQOZg
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) May 17, 2021
That statement is not available online as of this writing. In fact, the network apparently found Lemon’s truthful-yet-misleading comments so embarrassing that CNN seems to have potentially removed them from its transcript of Friday’s episode. (Its typical transcripts do not eliminate Lemon’s closing monologue.)
CNN has much to be embarrassed about. The overhyped shake-up tacitly acknowledges that Lemon’s show’s ratings failure is due, at least in part, to CNN.
Successful shows don’t change their names for no reason — and Lemon’s ratings have been abysmal. “Of the top 50 cable news programs in April, Lemon’s show ranked 39th. Lemon didn’t even average 1 million viewers per episode last month (in contrast, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson averaged 3.2 million viewers per episode in the same time period),” reported the Washington Examiner.
But dig deeper: Marketers always highlight the strongest possible brand. In this case, CNN thinks the words “Don Lemon” will attract more (or repulse fewer) viewers than “CNN.” The renaming represents an incredible self-own.
The entire publicity-seeking affair begs two questions: If its hosts can’t even tell the truth about themselves, how can anyone consider CNN “the most trusted name in news”? And what other “mischievous” moments have left CNN viewers with a false impression just to create buzz?
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.