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‘I Regret It’: Don Lemon Apologizes After On-Air Quips Stir Debate; Defenders Say Conservatives Who ‘Stand By Tucker Carlson’ Shouldn’t Be So Easily Offended  

Republican Nikki Haley recently threw her hat into the 2024 presidential election ring, and it sparked conversation on CNN’s new morning lineup that features Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow, and Kaitlin Collins.

The 51-year-old former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the U.N. has previously taken shots at other politicians for their age. She even called for “mandatory mental competency test” for politicians older than 75. Collins felt that this was a shot directed at 76-year-old former President Donald Trump and 80-year-old current President Joe Biden.

On Wednesday, Feb. 15, Haley used her first campaign rally to drive home the age issue, telling a crowd in Charleston, South Carolina, “America is not past our prime, it’s just that our politicians are past theirs.”

The following day she seemed to clarify that her competency test suggestion was not a barb aimed at Trump, telling the panel of “Fox & Friends” that the 45th president “did great the last time he did it.”

The test she referenced was one Trump took while in office to reveal any onset of dementia, not one meant to determine mental acuity. Haley has a complex history of both supporting and distancing herself from Trump, who appointed her to the U.N.

Don Lemon posing on the red carpet at CNN Heroes Event. (Photo Cred: Getty Images)

The CNN panel’s conversation about Haley took a turn when Lemon decided to make remarks about women’s “primes.”

“This whole talk about age makes me uncomfortable,” he said. “I think it’s 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, when a woman is considering being in her prime in 20s and 30s and maybe 40s.”

Both of his female co-hosts quickly interjected to get clarification on what point Lemon was trying to make.

Harlow responded, “Prime for what?”

“It depends, but if you look it up and Google ‘when is a woman in her prime’, it would say, 20s, 30s, and 40s,” retorted Lemon.

Harlow turned 40 last year and stated in a sarcastic tone, “Aww 40s, I still have another decade.”

“I’m not saying I agree with that. So, I think she has to be careful about saying that, you know, politicians are in their prime,” Lemon replied.

“Are you talking about prime for, like, childbearing? Or are you talking about prime for being president?” Harlow responded.

Instead of Lemon letting it go, he decided to double down on his statement and continued to explain his point.

“Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just saying what the facts are,” Lemon insisted. “Google it. Everybody at home, when is a woman in her prime? It says 20s, 30s and 40s. I’m just saying Nikki Haley should careful about saying that politicians are not in their prime, and they need to be in their prime when they serve. She would not be in her prime, according to Google, or whatever it is.”

Age has been a hot topic lately in American politics. A lot of the younger voting population has wanted to see younger leadership among politicians.

According to NPR, Biden was one of three presidents to take office in his 70s. The previous two were Ronald Reagan at age 73 and Trump at age 74.

Lemon continued his remarks by comparing his own mother’s age to the president.

“My mom is 80 years old. I just gave her a surprise birthday party,” he said. “Is she as physically strong as she once was? No. But mentally, she is sharp. Could she run the country? If she wanted to, I guess she could. But I guess it depends on the individual,” said Lemon.

His two female co-hosts were clearly upset with his comments, but the frustration spilled over to other women in the office, according to one female CNN staffer who spoke with The Daily Beast.

“There were grumbles of mansplaining,” the source added. “And how much longer the women should have to be talked down to before there’s a change.”

Former CNN correspondent Kate Bennett mentioned that Lemon’s comments were completely offensive and an example of sexism. CNN podcaster Audie Cornish joined the set and challenged Lemon’s comments. He then tried to defend his remarks again, but Cornish wasn’t buying it.

“She’s in her prime for running for office,” Cornish shot back. “I think that is the thing. Political prime is what we’re talking about.”

This is not the first time he has made female colleagues uncomfortable with things he has said. In December 2022, he commented that is fair for women’s soccer players to make significantly less than men.

Haley got word of Lemon’s comments and she took to Twitter to respond with the clip attached.

Lemon’s comments also drew mixed reactions on social media. Some questioned why the remarks on age made him a target for criticism instead of the original source.

The backlash received from his morning comments has resulted in the veteran anchor apologizing. He issued a statement Thursday saying he “regrets” his comments, calling them  “inartful and irrelevant.”

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