The surprising development was announced on Thursday, and it comes as CNN’s new chairman and CEO – Chris Licht – continues to axe and shakeup his on-air talent in a bid to rescue the network’s plummeting ratings.
According to Licht’s statement on Thursday in which he announced the upcoming new morning show, the CNN boss also revealed anchors Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins will join Lemon when the new program debuts later this year.
“There is no stronger combination of talent than Don, Poppy and Kaitlan to deliver on our promise of a game-changing morning news program,” Licht said in his statement. “They are each uniquely intelligent, reliable and compelling; together they have a rare and palpable chemistry.”
He added, “Combined with CNN’s resources and global newsgathering capabilities, we will offer a smart, bold and refreshing way to start the day.”
As RadarOnline.com exclusively reported, Lemon initially survived Licht’s swing of the axe that saw other CNN talents – such as Jeffrey Toobin, Brian Stelter and John Harwood – fired from the network.
But although Lemon was initially told he was safe from Licht’s vicious axe, the CNN CEO reportedly also told the Don Lemon Tonight anchor to “tone it down” if he wants to remain with the network.
“Don has been told he’s safe,” a source told RadarOnline.com in August. “But, like many, he has been left under no illusions that he cannot use the airwaves of CNN to spout opinion and be a bugle of the liberal set. Don was reminded CNN is a bipartisan news network like no other.”
Lemon further confirmed he was removed from the network’s primetime line-up in a statement of his own shortly after Licht made the announcement Thursday morning.
“The last eight years have been an incredible ride,” Lemon wrote. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with one of the best show teams in the business, but it’s time to shake things up.”
“I am so appreciative of the Don Lemon Tonight team, my wonderful, loyal viewers and everyone who has believed in me,” he continued. “I was honestly floored when Chris Licht asked me to do this and I’m honored by his belief in me. It’s going to be a thrill to take on this challenge with Poppy and Kaitlan.”
Harlow, who was already part of the network’s morning lineup alongside Jim Sciutto, will move to the upcoming new program’s earlier start when it debuts later this year.
Collins, who previously served as CNN’s White House correspondent throughout ex-President Donald Trump’s four years in office, will also move to the new program and serve as a co-anchor and chief correspondent.
John Berman and Brianna Keilar, who currently co-anchor CNN’s morning program New Day, are expected to shift into other roles at the network come the premiere of Lemon, Harlow and Collins’ new program.
As RadarOnline.com also exclusively reported, Licht had been considering axing New Day for weeks in favor of a new morning program much like that of MSNBC’s Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
“Chris comes from the same breeding ground as Zucker: morning television,” a well-placed CNN insider told us. “He wants to establish a popular morning show that sets the agenda for the network each day. He doesn’t want to change anchors frequently. He wants strength and stability — and believes it all starts in the all-important morning timeslot."
“Expect to see either one main anchor, like Joe, or three like Gayle King has on CBS," the insider continued. “They’ll be joined by a roster of ‘friends’ who can add to the morning dialogue — beat reporters, commentators, and people in the know.”