- Don Lemon said presidential hopeful Nikki Haley, 51, “isn’t in her prime” on CNN on Thursday.
- “A woman is considered to be in her prime in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s,” he said.
- The anchor later apologized for his “inartful” comments about women’s ages.
Don Lemon quickly walked back his Thursday morning comments after he suggested live on-air that GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley, 51, “isn’t in her prime,” in a diatribe that rankled some of his CNN colleagues and viewers.
The “CNN This Morning” co-host found himself in hot water following his coverage of Haley’s Wednesday campaign kickoff. The former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor said this week that if elected she would mandate mental competency tests for politicians who are older than 75 — an assumed indictment of both President Joe Biden, 80, and former President Donald Trump, 76.
Lemon, who is 56-years-old, wasn’t a fan of her plan.
“This whole talk about age makes me uncomfortable,” Lemon said to his co-hosts, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins. “I think it is the wrong road to go down. She says people, you know, politicians or something are not in their prime. Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime, sorry.”
“A woman is considered to be in her prime in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s,” he added.
Lemon’s proclamation drew immediate pushback from his female co-host, Harlow, who asked him to elaborate.
“If you Google when is a woman in her prime, it’ll say 20s, 30s, and 40s,” Lemon said. “I’m not saying I agree with that.”
—Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) February 16, 2023
Lemon went on, saying Haley should “be careful” when discussing aging politicians.
“Don’t shoot the messenger,” he said in response to Harlow’s rebuffs. “I’m just saying what the facts are. Google it, everybody at home.”
The conversation quickly drew criticism from viewers who chided Lemon for the “sexist” comments. Haley, herself, responded to the clip, as well.
“Liberals can’t stand the idea of having competency tests for older politicians to make sure they can do the job,” she wrote on Twitter. “BTW it’s always the liberals who are the most sexist.”
Ahead of Lemon’s mid-morning apology, a female CNN staffer told The Washington Post that “every woman in her 40s” was watching the morning show and cheering for Harlow because “we’ve all been in that seat next to our male colleague saying stupid things about women.”
A few hours after the conversation, Lemon took to Twitter to apologize, though he refrained from speaking directly to Haley.
The reference I made to a woman’s “prime” this morning was inartful and irrelevant, as colleagues and loved ones have pointed out, and I regret it,” he wrote. “A woman’s age doesn’t define her either personally or professionally. I have countless women in my life who prove that every day.”
—Don Lemon (@donlemon) February 16, 2023
A representative for Lemon did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.