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Don Lemon Praises Jeff Zucker: ‘We Lost The Man Who Was The Backbone, The Glue, And The Spirit Of This Company’

CNN’s Don Lemon used the opening monologue of his nightly show “Don Lemon Tonight” to remember his former boss Jeff Zucker, who resigned from the network this past week after it was discovered he was having an undisclosed relationship with a senior employee. Lemon claimed that Zucker revived the network and changed his life for the better. He also credited Zucker with putting the only person of color on primetime TV on a show with “my name on it.”

“So, everyone, a personal message I want to deliver at the top of the show,” Lemon noted. “A lot of folks have been watching wondering what’s happening,” he said with sadness. “It’s been a really tough day today, and a tough few days here for us at CNN all week really. I didn’t want to talk about it until tonight.”

“So, the truth is that we’re all heartbroken because we lost our leader here,” Lemon said of Zucker. “We lost the man who was the backbone, the glue, and the spirit of this company. The man who I personally credit with changing my life. A man who believed in me when nobody else did.”

Zucker tendered his resignation on Wednesday morning. Reportedly, according to CNN’s Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy who talked to colleagues, most CNN staffers were stunned by the decision.

Lemon also credited Zucker for increasing “diversity” in cable news:

He is the reason that you have a gay black man with two hours of primetime. A show with my name on it. The only anchor of color in primetime and cable news. Think about that. You want to talk about diversity? Here it is.

Lemon then compared the events of 9/11 and Katrina to the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021. Through it all, Lemon asserted that CNN delivered the “facts” about those days:

It has been hard to come in to work this week not only for me but for so many of us here at CNN.My colleagues, 3,000 of us, more than 3,000 of us. So let me just say this to my colleagues who may not have been here as long as I have, the younger folks who haven’t weathered these storms I’ve been at this network for almost 16 years.

We have been through ups and downs, ratings high, ratings lows, everything. Regime changes. We’ve been through a lot. And through it all our mission has remained the same. To deliver the facts, to deliver the news. It is what we did when Ted Turner turned the lights on here. It is what we did through two gulf wars, through 9/11, through Katrina, through an insurrection.

Lemon promised his viewers that he would continue to do “what he would want us to do” which is supposedly deliver the news “without fear or favor.” For context, Lemon’s show recently posted its worst ratings since 2014. Over the past year, CNN primetime has lost 77% of viewership and has only 663,000 total viewers.

Nonetheless, the TV host also thanked Zucker for “everything he did to the entire country, for the country”:

Jeff Zucker may not have launched this network but he revived it, he made it relevant again. He steadied it for the last decade. He left us with a very good blueprint going forward.

So, for all of you at home watching, you should know that I and my colleagues will continue to do exactly what he would want us to do and that is to do what I’m going to do right now. Deliver the news no matter what it is without fear or favor. So, thank you, Jeff Zucker for everything you did for everyone at this network and for what you did to the entire country, for the entire country.

So, let’s just move on. Good evening, everyone. I’m Don Lemon, and this is CNN.

His eulogy for his former boss can be seen here:

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