Elon Musk cancels X partnership with former CNN anchor Don Lemon after interview

Technology

Don Lemon attends The 15th Annual CNN Heroes: All-Star Tribute at American Museum of Natural History on December 12, 2021 in New York City.
Mike Coppola | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Former CNN anchor Don Lemon announced Wednesday that X owner Elon Musk has canceled a partnership in which Lemon would host a new show on the social network.

Lemon said he was informed of the decision to cancel the deal just hours after he taped an interview with Musk for the premiere of The Don Lemon Show on March 18.

“We had a good conversation. Clearly he felt differently,” Lemon said of the interview in a statement Wednesday. “His commitment to a global town square where all questions can be asked and all ideas can be shared seems not to include questions of him from people like me.”

“There were no restrictions on the interview that he willingly agreed to, and my questions were respectful and wide ranging, covering everything from SpaceX to the presidential election,” Lemon’s statement said.

Lemon intends to be paid for the partnership with X, according to Allison Gollust, a spokesperson for the former cable news anchor.

“Don has a deal with X and expects to be paid for it. If we have to go to court we will,” Gollust said in a statement to CNBC.

Musk claimed in a post on X Wednesday that “instead of it being the real Don Lemon, it was really just Jeff Zucker talking through Don, so lacked authenticity. All this said, Lemon/Zucker are of course welcome to build their viewership on this platform along with everyone else.” Zucker is the former president of CNN.

Musk has called himself a First Amendment and free speech advocate for years. When he took over Twitter, he reinstated accounts that had been permanently suspended under prior management, including that of former President Donald Trump. At the same time, he has demonstrated little tolerance for his employees’ free speech and has banned or suspended several critics on X since taking over the company.

Lemon said his show would continue despite the deal’s cancellation. The interview with Musk will be posted on YouTube, podcast platforms and will still be published on X, Lemon said.

“The Don Lemon Show is welcome to publish its content on X, without censorship, as we believe in providing a platform for creators to scale their work and connect with new communities,” the corporate account for X said in a statement on the site. “However, like any enterprise, we reserve the right to make decisions about our business partnerships, and after careful consideration, X decided not to enter into a commercial partnership with the show.”

X announced in January that Don Lemon would host a show on the platform, in addition to programs by former U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and sports commentator Jim Rome. Lemon was fired from CNN last year following sexist on-air comments and reports he mistreated coworkers.

CNBC reached out to Elon Musk, one of his attorneys, Alex Spiro, and Twitter separately. It remains unclear what, if any, contract had been arranged and what the terms of any partnership were between X and The Don Lemon Show.

CNBC’s Lora Kolodny contributed to this report.

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