The CNN anchor Don Lemon will return to his regular morning-show role on Wednesday, the network announced late Monday night, after an uproar over a series of comments he made on the air last week about women and aging.
In a terse, 75-word memo sent at 10:37 p.m., CNN’s chairman, Chris Licht, said Mr. Lemon “has agreed to participate in formal training” over his on-air behavior and that the network took “this situation very seriously.”
“I sat down with Don and had a frank and meaningful conversation,” Mr. Licht wrote, adding, “It is important to me that CNN balances accountability with fostering a culture in which people can own, learn and grow from their mistakes.”
Mr. Licht’s decision to address the matter in a memo in the waning hours of a holiday weekend reflected just how large a shadow the episode had cast over his network.
Mr. Lemon will be absent from Tuesday’s broadcast of “CNN This Morning,” where he last appeared on Thursday, shortly after asserting on the air that Nikki Haley, the 51-year-old Republican presidential candidate, “isn’t in her prime, sorry.” He went on to say that “a woman is considered to be in her prime in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.”
After his co-anchor Poppy Harlow pushed back, Mr. Lemon responded, “I’m just saying what the facts are,” and urged her to “Google it.”
Mr. Lemon, 56, had previously been scheduled to be off on Friday, and he was photographed over the weekend at a luxury resort in Miami Beach. But his failure to return on Monday morning raised speculation within television circles whether or not Mr. Lemon would return at all. A CNN spokesman said Mr. Lemon had decided to take off Presidents’ Day; his co-anchors, Ms. Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, both appeared on the show.
The outcry within CNN had already prompted Mr. Licht to rebuke Mr. Lemon on an editorial call on Friday morning in which he called the anchor’s remarks “upsetting, unacceptable and unfair.” He then handed off the call to Mr. Lemon, who spoke for six minutes and said, “I am sorry. I did not mean to hurt anyone.”
A CNN spokesman said on Monday night that “the company has a number of resources and Don is committed to our recommendation.” The spokesman declined to elaborate further, saying the network did not comment on personnel matters.
The success of “CNN This Morning” is of significant interest to Mr. Licht, a former morning-show producer himself who formally took charge of CNN in the spring of 2022. His decision to pair Mr. Lemon, who previously hosted a 10 p.m. program, with Ms. Harlow and Ms. Collins was his biggest programming gamble at the network to date.
“This demonstrates our commitment to the morning and how important it is to me,” Mr. Licht told The New York Times in a September interview, when the network announced its new morning lineup. “The show will set the tone of the entire day, and it will set the tone for the news organization.”
Mr. Licht also said the show was designed to be a “mass appeal play,” but in its first few months on the air, it has been anything but. Its ratings have not kept up with competitors’ on MSNBC and Fox News. Tensions have bubbled up between the co-anchors and the executive producer has already been replaced.