In an apparent split with his professed close friend and former colleague, CNN host Don Lemon advised against paying former host Chris Cuomo a multimillion-dollar severance package, according to multiple sources that have heard a recording of the conversation.
During a video conference on Monday, Lemon warned WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar about the negative impact paying Cuomo millions of dollars in severance pay after allegations that Cuomo breached journalist ethics could create at the network, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“Did you think about what message it sends to the journalists in the company and also to the larger public that someone can be found to break with those journalistic standards and then get paid handsomely for it?” Lemon reportedly asked. “And what is to stop the next person from doing the same thing, and possibly getting compensated for it, by saying, ‘Hey I’m going to spread rumors if you don’t give me this amount of money’?”
Kilar responded with a noncommittal, “That’s a lot of hypotheticals.”
The disagreement would represent the first public signs of acrimony between the two former hosts, who frequently bantered for 10 minutes during the transition from Cuomo’s top-rated show to Lemon’s struggling series at 10 p.m. Eastern. “I love you, Brother,” the two would regularly tell one another, after referring to having dinner and attending social events with one another’s families. The two turned the act into a podcast titled “The Handoff,” which went on hiatus when the network fired Cuomo last December.
Lemon cried for the cameras when he announced that Cuomo had tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020. “I’m sorry. I said I wasn’t going to do this. J****!” Lemon said, as he dabbed tears away from his eyes.
But Lemon, like many current CNN employees, had a visceral attachment to recently departed CNN president Jeff Zucker, whom he credited with changing his life. “He is the reason that you have a gay black man with two hours of primetime. A show with my name on it. The only anchor of color in primetime and cable news. Think about that,” Lemon said as he gave his boss an emotional send-off last Friday. “You want to talk about diversity? Here it is.”
An emotional DON LEMON delivers a personal message on Jeff Zucker's exit from CNN:
"…Thank you Jeff Zucker for everything you did for everyone at this network and for what you did to the entire country — for the entire country." pic.twitter.com/QF4csjSDSY
— Daniel Chaitin (@danielchaitin7) February 5, 2022
Cuomo’s lawsuit has been credited with bringing down Zucker. CNN reportedly fired its top-rated host for advising his brother, then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, about how to beat back multiple allegations of sexual harassment to a greater extent than he had admitted, as well as allegedly new claims that Chris Cuomo had sexually harassed a woman at another network.
Media reports have said that Cuomo’s legal team threatened to expose Zucker’s undisclosed romantic relationship with CNN executive vice president Allison Gollust, who had served as Andrew Cuomo’s communications director. Rolling Stone reported that sources had information that “Zucker and Gollust were advising the governor at the beginning of the COVID pandemic in ways not dissimilar to what led to Chris Cuomo’s dismissal.“
CNN’s parent company, AT&T, opened negotiations to pay Cuomo, whom the network fired last December, $9 million to keep the lawsuit out of the courtroom, the New York Post reported last week. But media reports confirm that the former CNN personality is willing to ask for up to $60 million. “He wants Megyn Kelly money,” one source told Page Six.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.