Don Lemon apologizes for saying women aren't in their 'prime' after their 40s: 'Inartful and irrelevant'

Don Lemon
(Image credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images for CNN)

CNN anchor Don Lemon has issued two apologies, one publicly and one internally to his co-workers, after his controversial remarks about "when a woman is considered to be in her prime."

Lemon faced backlash after arguing on the air Thursday that former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), who recently announced her campaign for president and called for "mandatory mental competency tests" for politicians over 75, is not "in her prime" because she's 51.

"When a woman is considered to be in her prime [is] in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40," he said. "That's not according to me. .... If you Google 'when is a woman in her prime,' it will say 20s, 30s, and 40s."

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Lemon received immediate pushback from his co-anchor Poppy Harlow before igniting a firestorm on Twitter. By Thursday afternoon, he issued an apology.

"The reference I made to a woman's 'prime' this morning was inartful and irrelevant, as colleagues and loved ones have pointed out, and I regret it," Lemon tweeted. "A woman's age doesn't define her either personally or professionally. I have countless women in my life who prove that every day."

Lemon then apologized Friday to CNN staff on an editorial call, saying he didn't "mean to offend anyone," The Daily Beast reports. "I believe women of any age can do anything they set their minds to," he reportedly said. "The people I am closest to in this organization are women."

But TMZ reports that some on the call felt that his apology was "tone deaf" because he seemed to be "giving himself kudos for owning his mistake."

Lemon was not present on the air Friday, with anchor Kaitlan Collins telling viewers he "has the day off," though according to former CNN host Brian Stelter, his absence was planned prior to the controversy.

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