Don Lemon calls Elon Musk’s free speech claims ‘just talking points’ in first CNN appearance since ouster

A serene Don Lemon on Wednesday night returned to CNN — the network he was ousted from last year — to discuss Elon Musk abruptly firing him from his subsequent gig on X just hours after the two sat down for an interview.

“What set Musk off?” “Outfront” host Erin Burnett asked of the billionaire’s unexpected canceling of the platform’s “Don Lemon Show.”

“That’s a good question for Elon Musk. Quite frankly, I don’t know,” said Lemon, who was wearing thick, black-rimmed glasses and a black sweater with a white button-down.

Burnett flashed a statement from X, saying that it reserved the right to make decisions about its partnerships, before also playing clips of Musk talking about the importance of free speech on his social media platform.

Lemon, 58, who said his interview with Musk, 52, was “tense at moments” replied that the CEO’s comments about free speech must be “just talking points.”

The former CNN anchor expressed surprise that Musk canceled his deal with him 24 hours after the interview.

“What’s interesting to me is … I never raised my voice. I told him, ‘I think this is important for people to hear,’” Lemon said. “At the end, I could tell he was upset. He was uncomfortable.”

Elon Musk has abruptly canceled Don Lemon’s new streaming show on the X social media platform. CNN

Despite Lemon’s calm disposition, he did tell Burnett that a public square like X “should not be privately owned” and that freedom of speech “doesn’t mean as much” to Musk as it “does to him.”

He told Burnett that he asked Musk about whether he has a responsibility to police hate speech on X, to which the mogul shot back that he doesn’t have any responsibility to do that or answer questions.

“I don’t have to answer questions from reporters. Don, the only reason I’ve done this interview is because you’re on the X platform and you asked for it, otherwise, I would not do this interview.”

The snippy exchange ended with Lemon asking if he’d be criticized for not answering questions.

“I get criticized constantly, and I could care less,” Musk said

Other topics of conversation included DEI policies that Musk has slammed on his platform. CNN did not play any clips showing that exchange.

Lemon said he asked the tech mogul if X has a responsibility to better moderate harmful theories about race.

Lemon told Burnett that the CEO said the platform doesn’t “amplify” any racist ideology.

“There’s no accountability,” he added.

Lemon corrected Burnett when she referred to Musk as his “boss.”

“First of all, he’s not my boss. They were a distribution partner, they never had editorial control.”

Another tense exchange came when Lemon asked about Musk’s alleged drug use, specifically pointing to his ketamine use.

Musk said he posted about that because he used it for depression and that it would be “consequential” and helpful for others to know about.

Lemon also pressed Musk about a recent meeting with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, to which the billionaire said it was a coincidence that Trump stopped by when Musk was visiting a friend.

In a quick exchange, Lemon asked if Trump wanted a donation or asked for money, to which Musk said no to both questions.

“Are you leaning towards anyone?” Lemon asked, wondering if Musk would endorse Trump.

“I’m leaning away from Biden,” the CEO revealed.

Lemon shade

Don Lemon had taped the sit-down with the billionaire owner of X, SpaceX and Tesla on Friday. instagram/donlemonofficial

Musk canceled “The Don Lemon Show” after sitting down for an interview with the canned CNN anchor that was supposed to serve as his premiere episode on the platform, Lemon said earlier Wednesday.

Lemon had taped the sit-down with the billionaire owner of X, SpaceX and Tesla on Friday.

“Elon Musk has canceled the partnership I had with X,” Lemon said in a statement posted to the social media site.

“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. We had a good conversation. Clearly, he felt differently.”

Musk shot back hours later after touring a Tesla plant in Germany.

“His approach was basically just ‘CNN, but on social media,’ which doesn’t work, as evidenced by the fact that CNN is dying,” Musk posted on X.

“And, 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.”

A source with knowledge of the hour-and-a-half-long interview also noted that Lemon seemed lost without former CNN boss Zucker’s guidance.

“He was unpolished. He didn’t have producers in his ear. Jeff Zucker used to be in his ear and he would repeat back everything he was told,” the source told The Post.

Lemon conducted the interview with a barebones staff that included his fiance — not the big team the former anchor had at CNN, the source added.

“Don was underwhelming, unprepared and dull,” the source said, noting that Lemon didn’t ask any edgy or interesting questions.

“He didn’t ask Musk about (ex-girlfriend) Amber Heard. Elon probably would have liked it.”

Musk, the CEO of Tesla and owner of X, abruptly canceled the social media platform’s partnership with Lemon. CNN
Musk wanted Lemon to ask him about his prior relationship with actress Amber Heard, seen in this 2017 photo. Instagram

Lemon’s questions covered touchy topics that included Musk’s drug use and the various lawsuits against the mogul and that he has lodged, Deadline reported.

Musk had recruited Lemon in January as part of an effort to attract more left-leaning voices to the site. He was slated to tape three, 30-minute episodes a week before the apparent rift.

Terms of their deal were not disclosed but Musk’s sudden about-face could leave him on the hook for millions of dollars against the litigious Lemon, according to Deadline.

Lemon is also seeking a reported payout of $25 million from CNN over his termination.

In his statement, Lemon accused Musk of reneging on his commitment to free speech and to “amplifying more diverse voices on their platform.”

Lemon said that Musk gave him his “full support” and that he “took Elon and his management team’s word that they … were interested in working directly with new and diverse voices.”

“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,” Lemon said in his statement.

The first episode was scheduled to stream on X on Monday. Lemon said it will still air on YouTube.

A post by X’s business account said: “X is a platform that champions free speech, and we’re proud to provide an open environment for diverse voices and perspectives. 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.

“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.”

In a separate video Lemon posted to X, he said: “I thought the first person [to] interview, no-brainer, Elon Musk, the man who calls himself a free speech absolutist. But apparently, free-speech absolutism doesn’t apply when it comes to questions about him from people like me.” 

Musk’s alleged drug use was the subject of recent reports in The Wall Street Journal, which cited sources as saying that he took acid, magic mushrooms and ketamine at social events.

Musk has reportedly been microdosing on ketamine to treat depression.

Lemon’s short-lived deal with X came just months after he was unceremoniously fired from his ratings-challenged morning show at CNN.

Lemon spent 17 years at the network, but Zucker’s successor, Chris Licht, reportedly soured on the anchor’s on-screen and off-screen behavior toward colleagues.

Last year, Lemon was put on hiatus after he said during a broadcast of “CNN This Morning” that Nikki Haley, who at the time was running for the GOP nomination for president, was “not in her prime” at age 51.

Lemon also had backstage run-ins with staffers and on-air talent, including co-anchor Kaitlin Collins, as The Post previously reported.

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button