Musk Pulls Plug on ‘The Don Lemon Show’ on X After Heated Exchange with Lemon

By: Georgia | Published: Mar 14, 2024

Elon Musk, owner of the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, made the decision to cancel “The Don Lemon Show” shortly after recording an interview with Don Lemon for the program’s first episode. 

Musk, who often identifies himself as a “free speech absolutist,” took to X to announce the cancellation. The company, based in San Francisco, stated that it had decided not to enter into a commercial partnership with the show after careful consideration. 

Lemon's Reaction to the Cancellation

Following the abrupt cancellation, Don Lemon shared a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, where he stated, “Elon Musk is mad at me.” 

A sequence of three still images from a video, showing Don Lemon speaking directly to the camera on a city street. In the first image, Lemon smiles and says, 'Hi everyone Elon Musk is mad.' The second image shows Lemon with a neutral expression, with the caption, 'between him, me, and the.' In the third image, Lemon appears more serious and the caption reads, 'and you told me so.'

Source: donlemon/X

Lemon announced his intentions to release the interview with Elon Musk on YouTube and via podcast, despite the cancellation of his show on X. He believed that airing the interview would be beneficial for the public to see and hear their exchange.


Musk's Commitment to Free Speech Questioned

In his video statement, Don Lemon discussed the nature of his conversation with Musk, mentioning that it was tense at times but important for public viewing. 

Elon Musk is captured in a contemplative pose, sitting with his hands clasped and his elbows resting on his knees. He's wearing a black shirt and is seated in front of a backdrop featuring an abstract image of Earth viewed from space

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Lemon suggested that Musk’s actions contradicted his proclaimed stance on free speech, saying, “But apparently free speech absolutism doesn’t apply when it comes to questions about him from people like me.”

Lemon's Interview Highlights with Musk

CNN later highlighted parts of the interview between Musk and Lemon, where Musk appeared uncomfortable discussing content moderation and the spread of hate speech on X. 

Don Lemon and Elon Musk are seated across from each other in a studio setting, engaged in conversation. Lemon, on the left, is attentively looking at Musk, holding a smartphone and notes, dressed in a sweater and jeans. Musk, wearing a black outfit, is seen gesturing with his hands while speaking

Source: donlemon/X

This portion of the interview showed a contentious exchange between Lemon and Musk, particularly over the responsibility of the platform to moderate hate speech.

Musk's Response to Lemon's Questions

During the interview, when questioned about the role of his platform in moderating hate speech, Musk retorted that he was not obliged to answer questions from reporters. 

A close-up photo of a person's hand holding a smartphone, which displays a screen with a 'Social Media' folder. Inside the folder, there are app icons visible for Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, and a platform labeled 'X' with a distinctive logo

Source: Julian Christ/X

Musk stated, “The only reason I’m in this interview is because you’re on the X platform and you asked for it. Otherwise, I would not be doing this interview.”

Musk's Indifference to Criticism

Musk also addressed the criticism he has faced regarding the issue of hate speech on X, saying, “I’m criticized constantly. I could care less.” 

Elon Musk, wearing a dark suit and a white shirt, is shown in mid-conversation with a focused expression

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This response highlighted Musk’s stance on criticism and his approach to the challenges facing his social media platform.


X's Initial Partnership with Lemon

X had announced a “new content partnership” with Don Lemon for “The Don Lemon Show,” planning to air 30-minute episodes three times a week. 

Don Lemon stands confidently on stage at a CNN Town Hall event. He's wearing a sharp blue suit with a tie and pocket square, holding a tablet in his hand. The background features a large, patriotic graphic with red, white, and blue colors, and the words 'CNN TOWN HALL' repeated across a blue curtain

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The subjects of the show were to include politics, culture, sports, and entertainment. This deal was part of X’s strategy to enhance its content offerings and attract advertisers.


Don Lemon's Departure from CNN

Don Lemon was dismissed from CNN after a 17-year tenure, following controversial on-air comments he made about then-Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley. 

Don Lemon is seated at the CNN news desk, smiling and facing the camera, with graphics for America's Choice 2020 in the background. The graphics include a large U.S. electoral map showing states in red and blue, indicating party leads, and the prominent CNN logo

Source: donlemon/X

His exit from CNN came shortly after his controversial comments, and Lemon’s move to X was seen as a new beginning.


The Circumstances of Lemon's CNN Exit

CNN’s decision to part ways with Don Lemon came after his comments about Nikki Haley not being in “her prime.” 

Nikki Haley stands behind a podium, facing the camera. She has short dark hair and is wearing a tweed jacket with a lapel pin

Source: Wikimedia Commons

While CNN did not provide a public explanation for his dismissal, the incident marked a significant point in Lemon’s career.


Lemon's Comments on Age and Prime

During a discussion on CNN, Don Lemon stated that a woman is considered in her prime “in her 20s, 30s and maybe her 40s,” referring to Nikki Haley. 

The image features a woman with dark hair smiling directly at the camera. She has a formal appearance and is positioned in front of an American flag

Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

His co-host challenged his remarks, prompting a conversation about the context of what being “in her prime” means.


Lemon's Apology and Absence

Following the backlash from his comments, Don Lemon issued a statement regretting his “inartful and irrelevant” remarks. 

Don Lemon is photographed at an event, smiling broadly in front of a purple backdrop that reads '46th CHAPLIN AWARD GALA.' He is wearing a light blue blazer, a dark shirt, and glasses

Source: donlemon/X

He was absent from the show for three days and later returned, continuing his role without further mention of the incident on air.


X's Strategy to Revive Advertising Revenue

In an effort to address falling advertising revenues, X, under Musk’s leadership, is exploring various strategies, including expanding into video content

A 3D rendered image displaying a gray cube with a beveled edge on a dark background. The cube features a glowing white letter 'X' centered on its visible face

Source: Bastian Riccardi/Unsplash

This initiative comes in the wake of a significant downturn in advertiser support following Musk’s acquisition of the platform. Many prominent companies withdrew their advertising as reports and research indicated an increase in extremist content on X.