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Don Lemon Says Elon Musk Canceled His X Talk Show Deal Shortly After Interview: The Tech Billionaire ‘Is Mad at Me’

Don Lemon, who was fired from CNN last year after 17 years at the network, had been working with Elon Musk’s X (formerly Twitter) to launch a new talk show on the platform.

Now, according to Lemon, Musk has nixed the partnership — coming just a few hours after Lemon interviewed the tech mogul last week.

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“Elon Musk has canceled the partnership I had with X, which they announced as part of their public commitment to amplifying more diverse voices on their platform,” Lemon said in a statement posted Wednesday on X. “He informed me of his decision hours after an interview I conducted with him on Friday. That interview will remain the premiere episode of ‘The Don Lemon Show’ on Monday, March 18.”

A rep for Lemon told Variety, “Don has a deal with X and he expects to be paid for it. If we have to go to court, we will.”

In a video on X, Lemon said, “Elon Musk is mad at me… This does not change anything about the show except for my relationship with Elon and X, and there’s a whole lot that went down, and I’m gonna tell you about it in the coming days.”

Regarding the Musk interview, Lemon said, “Throughout our conversation, I kept reiterating to him that although it was tense at times, I thought it was good for people to see and hear our exchange, and that they would learn from our conversation. Learn more about him, learn more about me. But apparently, free speech absolutism doesn’t apply when it comes to questions about him from people like me.”

X said in a statement, “‘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. 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.”

Musk, in a post on X attempting to explain what happened, wrote that Lemon’s approach “was basically just ‘CNN, but on social media,’ which doesn’t work, as evidenced by the fact that CNN is dying. And, instead of it being the real Don Lemon, it was really just [former CNN president] 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.”

In a subsequent post Wednesday evening, Musk wrote, referring to Lemon with the lemon emoji, “🍋 is welcome to monetize on this platform, just like everyone else. What we aren’t going to do is guarantee minimum payments to him, as he was demanding, which would be going beyond everyone else! Unfortunately, all 🍋 wants to do is rehash the dying CNN business model ‘but on social media’, which will do even worse here than it did on cable TV.”

In addition to its now-canceled deal with Lemon, X announced deals for shows hosted by Tulsi Gabbard, the former Hawaii congresswoman, and sportscaster Jim Rome.

According to Lemon’s written statement, “Elon publicly encouraged me to join X with a new show, saying I would have his ‘full support,’ and that his ‘digital town square is for all.’ He and his team pursued the deal in numerous conversations and made significant commitments about the support X would provide for the show. I made the decision to work with them in a unique partnership that I believed would ultimately assure that my work would be available to the most people, in the largest possible venue. I took Elon and his management team’s word that they, for the first time, were interested in working directly with new and diverse voices.”

Lemon continued, “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. 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.”

In his statement, Lemon said the interview with Musk will be available on YouTube, “wherever you listen to podcasts” and on X. “This will be just the first of many episodes of ‘The Don Lemon Show.’ While Elon goes back on his word, I will be doubling down on my commitment to free speech and I cannot wait to get started,” he said.

The former CNN anchor parted ways with the Warner Bros. Discovery-backed news outlet last year after he was moved to duties on its morning program. Prior to his dismissal, Lemon had remarked on-air that then-Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley was past her “prime,” a comment for which he issued multiple apologies. Variety soon after reported that the anchor’s behavior toward women has been called into question several times over his career.

In January 2024, Lemon launched a new media company and said he would debut a new program on X.

Brian Steinberg contributed to this report.

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