- Don Lemon reportedly sent anonymous, threatening text messages to a co-anchor in 2008.
- The messages warned the co-anchor was “going to pay for it,” anonymous sources told Variety.
- Lemon said the allegations were false. CNN declined to “corroborate the alleged events from 15 years ago.”
CNN and Don Lemon are pushing back after Variety reported the network’s star anchor sent anonymous, threatening texts to then-co-anchor Kyra Phillips after she landed a 2008 reporting role in Iraq he wanted for himself.
Two anonymous sources who worked at CNN at the time told Variety the pair had been co-hosting CNN’s “Live From” at the time, Lemon’s first hosting gig at the news behemoth.
The sources told Variety that Lemon’s “provocative” behavior drove up “tensions” between the two.
The reported bad blood came to a head when Phillips was sent to Iraq on a reporting trip that Lemon “coveted,” Variety reported, and he complained that he was passed over for the gig, the sources said.
At the office, while Phillips was abroad, two sources told Variety that Lemon tore up pictures and notes on top of and inside Phillips’ desk in their shared news pod.
When she returned to the US, Phillips received two anonymous and threatening text messages warning her that she’s “crossed the line” and “you’re going to pay for it,” Variety reported, citing the sources. She got the first of the texts while out to dinner with colleagues, Variety reported.
After escalating the issue to CNN higher-ups, the texts were traced to Lemon, the two sources who worked at CNN at the time told Variety.
According to Variety, this prompted an HR investigation into Lemon, resulting in him being pulled off the air from his role alongside Phillips and being placed on weekend shows.
But Lemon said in a statement that he never sent the texts.
“The story, which is riddled with patently false anecdotes and no concrete evidence, is entirely based on unsourced, unsubstantiated, 15-year-old anonymous gossip. It’s amazing and disappointing that Variety would be so reckless,” Lemon said in a statement shared with Insider.
CNN repeated Lemon’s claim that the incidents occurred, adding that Lemon said “he was never notified of any investigation.”
“CNN cannot corroborate the alleged events from 15 years ago,” a CNN spokesperson said in a statement shared with Insider.