The former anchor, who was relieved of his duties in April following 17 years at the network, appeared on New York Magazine’s “Pivot” podcast Friday to discuss his own abrupt exit and Licht’s subsequent departure, as well as changes at the network during the executive’s tenure.
Licht and other CNN officials had “wanted to be centrist” and shift strategy, Lemon said, adding that he believed the network didn’t want the anchor to be a part of it.
“They wanted to move the network in a certain direction, which was kind of a bit surprising because I think the news is the news and you don’t choose a direction. It just is,” he said.
“What do you think people got wrong about you leaving?” podcast co-host Kara Swisher asked Lemon, before referencing Licht’s exit. “And what happened later is the person who had really fired you, essentially, got fired.”
“I think that says it all,” replied Lemon. “What more do I need to say?”
“Do you think it vindicates you?” Swisher asked.
“Yes. ... I think people get what happened. All you have to do is read the Atlantic story, read the subsequent stories that came out and how it played out,” Lemon responded, pointing to media coverage of controversies surrounding Licht and how the CEO was let go.
“So do I feel vindicated in that sense? Yes, I do.”
Lemon himself was fired following his sexist “prime” comments about presidential candidate Nikki Haley, along with a heated exchange involving another GOP hopeful, Vivek Ramaswamy. He also was the subject of an exposé in Variety where he was accused of misogyny and inappropriate behavior toward female colleagues at CNN.
On “Pivot,” Lemon said he was “never allowed to address the issue” of the Haley comments, which he’d apologized for on X (formerly known as Twitter).
“I wish that I could have, but I was never allowed to,” he said.
Lemon also remarked that there wasn’t “a better person alive who could run CNN” than Jeff Zucker, suggesting that the network’s former president might have handled the Haley controversy differently.
“He understood that when you are in those conversations, just as in your regular conversations that you have across the dinner table or in a restaurant, you don’t always say things perfectly,” Lemon said.
The former CNN anchor noted that in the next chapter of his career, he wants to do something that will “scare the shit out of” him. He added that he would like to not be “preaching to a diminishing audience.”
“I don’t have to rush back to work. It’s a good time for me to figure it out,” Lemon said.