‘This is the last night’: Don Lemon teases ‘changes’ during Friday sign-off

CNN host Don Lemon threw viewers a curveball Friday evening as he prepared to sign off his show when he said “changes are coming.”

“So earlier, I told you I had an announcement, and I do,” he began. “It’s been really, really great. This is the last night that will be ‘CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.”

“So, I appreciate all the years of ‘CNN Tonight with Don Lemon,’ but changes are coming. And I will fill you in,” he said without elaborating, going on to introduce a special about singer Marvin Gaye.

A short time later, Lemon posted a 24-second video to Twitter assuring fans that he isn’t leaving the network.

(Video: CNN)

“So I got back down to my office after the show — everybody calm down,” he said. “I didn’t say I was leaving CNN. I just said it was the end of an era for ‘CNN Tonight with Don Lemon’.

“I am not leaving CNN,” Lemon added, “so you will have to tune in Monday at 10 o’clock to see. That’s it. So relax, I’m not leaving.” After breaking out in laughter, Lemon repeated, “I’m not leaving.”

It’s not clear whether Lemon is actually staying with the network, whether he’s moving to a new timeslot, or whether he is taking on a different role in terms of programming.

In 2016, for instance, he told trade industry magazine Variety that he wanted to expand his horizons following then-President-elect Donald Trump’s era.

“I would like it to be a little bit looser. I would love it to be like HBO,” he said. “I would love to be able to say those things you never say on basic cable. I would love to be able to have those conversations the way Bill Maher does.”

That said, CNN’s prime-time lineup, especially since former President Donald Trump left office, has been a ratings disaster. Earlier this week, The Hill’s media analyst, Joe Concha, noted the freefall on Twitter.

“The drop CNN is experiencing is profound,” he tweeted Monday. “On Friday, not one program broke 900K total viewers. Prime averaged less than 800K overall. For comparison, the network averaged 2.74 million viewers in January, so we’re talking about more than two-thirds of the audience – gone.”

An analysis by Rasmussen Reports found that Fox News, by far, remains the cable news king thanks to a significant, loyal following, with 41 percent of likely voters saying they tune in regularly. That compares with 25 percent of likely voters saying they “generally watch” CNN, while 21 percent said the same for rival left-wing network MSNBC.

“It may be that the biggest loser in last year’s election wasn’t a political candidate, but CNN, which has seen its ratings drop precipitously since former President Donald Trump left office in January,” noted Rasmussen in the analysis.

Other CNN programming has also slumped. Earlier this month, “Reliable Sources,” hosted by Brian Stelter, already in trouble in terms of viewership, fell to a new low, recording its smallest audience of the year thus far and failing to reach at least one million viewers for a fifth straight week.

The May 2 show only attracted roughly 810,000 viewers, including thin 163,000 in the coveted 25-54 adult demographic, the worst showing of the year for Stelter in both categories.

In addition, the network’s morning show, “New Day,” which recently relaunched with network host Brianna Keilar joining Alisyn Camerota and replacing John Berman, is already down 37 percent from the first quarter of 2021. The show averages fewer than 500,000 viewers each morning.

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Jon Dougherty

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