Lemon made the controversial comments during Thursday’s episode of CNN This Morning, where he suggested that the former governor of South Carolina shouldn’t be critical about the ages of politicians running for office.
“This whole talk about age makes me uncomfortable. I think it’s the wrong road to go down. She says people, you know, politicians or something are not in their prime,” Lemon said. “Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime, sorry. A woman is considered to be in their prime in 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.”
Lemon’s comments were interrupted by his co-anchor Poppy Harlow, who asked: “What are you talking about… wait, prime for what?”
Lemon then suggested that his claim is “not according to [him],” adding: “It’s just, like, prime. If you look it up, if you Google: ‘When is a woman in her prime?’ It’ll say 20s, 30s and 40s. I’m not saying I necessarily agree with that, so I think she has to be careful of saying that politicians aren’t in their prime and they need to be.”
Harlow then suggested that her co-host needed to clarify his meaning, as she asked: “Are you talking about prime for child bearing or are you talking about prime for president?”
Lemon attempted to defend himself, telling his co-anchors not to “shoot the messenger”.
“Don’t shoot the messenger! I’m just saying what the facts are!” he said, before urging viewers to “Google it”. “Google it, everybody at home, when is a woman in her prime, it’s 20s, 30s and 40s,” he continued.
The CNN anchor then reiterated his claim that Haley, who announced her 2024 presidential campaign this week, should avoid criticising candidates running for office about their age, because she “wouldn’t be in her prime according to Google or whatever it is”.
The segment has since sparked intense criticism on social media and viewers have suggested that Lemon should be “cancelled” over the “misogynistic” comments.
“He should be cancelled and fired,” one person wrote, while another said: “Google does not make something a fact! You are misogynist to say women are only in their prime in 30s to 40s. Fire him @CNN.”
“Imagine the entitlement he must feel to sit there with two women and say these things all because he dislikes a female politician. Did he think they’d have his back?” someone else asked.
Others took the opportunity to point out that President Joe Biden is 80 years old, and that, at 56 years old, Lemon is older than Haley.
“Our president is 80 years old. Why are you worried about Nikki Haley being in her prime? You sound like a shallow, sexist dweeb. You’re also terrible at your job,” one person tweeted, while someone else added: “She’s five years younger than you. Lie down for a nap and think about what you’ve done.”
On Thursday, Lemon took to Twitter to express regret over his comments, which he said were “inartful and irrelevant”.
“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.”
Although some said they appreciated Lemon’s statement, others accused the news anchor of avoiding apologising.
“That’s a lot of words to avoid typing ‘I’m sorry,’” one person claimed, while another said: “‘Inartful and irrelevant’. You just can’t bring yourself to say ‘wrong,’ can you?”
“Where is the apology in this statement?” someone else asked.
Lemon’s initial comments came after Haley, 51, called for mandatory competency tests for politicians older than 75 in her official campaign launch video on 15 February.
“In the America I see, the permanent politician will finally retire,” Haley said. “We’ll have term limits for Congress and mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old.”
In what appeared to be an unrelated attack, Donald Trump also criticised Lemon on Thursday, with the former president describing the CNN anchor as the “dumbest man on television” in a post shared to Truth Social. The criticism was linked to a report that claimed CNN This Morning is the network’s lowest-rated morning show in a decade.
The Independent has contacted CNN for comment.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies