Don Lemon (born March 1, 1966) is an American television journalist. Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he anchored weekend news programs on local television networks in Alabama and Pennsylvania during his early days as a journalist. Lemon then worked as a news correspondent for NBC on its programming, such as Today and NBC Nightly News, after which he joined CNN in 2006, also as a correspondent. He later achieved prominence as the presenter of CNN Tonight beginning in 2014. Lemon is also a recipient of an Edward R. Murrow Award and three regional Emmy Awards.
Early life and education
Don Lemon was born March 1, 1966, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He has Creole ancestry, his great-grandfather was of French descent, in addition to Nigerian, Cameroonian, and Congolese ancestry. He went to Baker High School, a public high school in the town of Baker in East Baton Rouge Parish. Lemon was voted class president his senior year.
Lemon attended Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, New York, majoring in broadcast journalism, during which worked as a news assistant at WNYW. He then went on to attend Louisiana State University. At the same time, he was hired by Fox News and worked for its St. Louis and Chicago affiliates for several years. Following the completion of his studies, Lemon became a correspondent for NBC affiliates in Philadelphia and Chicago.
Early in his career, Lemon reported as a weekend news anchor for WBRC in Birmingham, Alabama, and WCAU in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as an anchor and investigative reporter for KTVI in St. Louis. Lemon reported for NBC News' New York City operations, including working as a correspondent for Today, NBC Nightly News, and as anchor on Weekend Today and programs on MSNBC. In 2003, he began at NBC owned-and-operated station WMAQ-TV (5 in Chicago), and was a reporter and local news co-anchor. He attained three local Emmys while reporting for WMAQ.
Lemon joined CNN in September 2006. He has been outspoken in his work at CNN, criticizing the state of cable news and questioning the network publicly. He has also voiced strong opinions on ways that the African American community can improve their lives, which has caused some controversy. Since 2014, he has also hosted CNN's New Year's Eve special from New Orleans.
In October 2017, he received death threats laced with racial slurs; he filed a police report detailing the incident. In a much-reported broadcast in January 2018, Lemon introduced his broadcast with, "This is CNN Tonight, I’m Don Lemon. The president of the United States is racist." His outspoken criticism of the Trump administration and accusations of racism against President Trump have made Lemon a target of Trump and white supremacists. In November 2018, he received attention for stating that homegrown white supremacists were a bigger threat to the country than immigrants.
Lemon lives in an apartment in Harlem and has another home in Sag Harbor on Long Island, New York.
During an on-air interview with members of Bishop Eddie Long's congregation in September 2010, Lemon discussed being sexually molested when he was five or six by a neighbor teenage boy, and that it was not until he was thirty that he told his mother about it.
In his 2011 memoir, Transparent, Lemon publicly came out as gay—having been out in his personal life and with close colleagues—becoming "one of the few openly gay black men in broadcasting." He also discussed colorism in the black community and the sexual abuse he suffered as a child. He dedicated the book to Tyler Clementi, a college student who took his own life after his roommate outed him online. Lemon also stated that he has known about his sexuality since the age of five or six.
In March 2014, Lemon posited that a black hole may have caused Malaysia Airlines Flight 370's disappearance, and was widely mocked for this on-air gaffe.
On January 31, 2018, Lemon's sister, L'Tanya "Leisa" Lemon Grimes, died at the age of 58; police concluded that her death was an accidental drowning in a pond while fishing. After being absent for approximately a week, he opened his show on February 6 by thanking everyone who wished him "prayers and words of encouragement". He said that conservatives, like Sean Hannity, were among the first to call, which illustrated how they actually respect each other and have good relations, even though they disagree on the issues.
Lemon met real estate agent Tim Malone in 2017, after which the two began dating. The couple announced in April 2019 that they were engaged.
In August 2019, a New York bartender filed a civil lawsuit against Lemon for a "demeaning, unprovoked and offensive assault" in a tavern in Sag Harbor in July 2018, seeking unspecified damages for "severe emotional stress and loss of future earnings and opportunities." In his response, Lemon denied the bartender's claims.
Honors and awards
In 2002, Lemon won an Edward R. Murrow Award for his coverage of the capture of the D.C. area sniper, and other awards for reports on Hurricane Katrina. In 2006, he earned three Chicago / Midwest Emmy Awards–one for a business feature about Craigslist real estate listings, "Life on Craigslist," and two for reporting on the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa, "Journey to Africa"–while reporting for WMAQ-TV in Chicago.
Lemon was voted as one of the 150 most influential African Americans by Ebony magazine in 2009. In 2014, Advocate listed Lemon as one of the publication's 50 Most Influential LGBTQ People in Media.
In 2014, David Uberti of the Columbia Journalism Review named him in a list of worst journalism of the year for several reporting gaffes throughout the year.
In December 2016, Lemon was honored with a Native Son Award, named after James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son (1955), recognizing and to "encourage the increased visibility and impact of black gay men in society". In 2017, Out named him on its Power 50 list of "the most influential LGBTQ people in the USA."
In June 2019, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village, New York, an event widely considered a watershed moment in the modern LGBTQ rights movement, Queerty named him one of the Pride50 "trailblazing individuals who actively ensure society remains moving towards equality, acceptance and dignity for all queer people".
- Lemon, Don (2011). Transparent. Farrah Gray Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-0-9827027-8-9.