Don Lemon Says Elon Musk Canceled His Deal With X After ‘Tense’ Interview

Don Lemon attends the 2023 Time100 Gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 26, 2023 in New York City. (Arturo Holmes/WireImage/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

By Oliver Darcy, CNN

New York (CNN) — Don Lemon’s partnership with Elon Musk went down in flames Wednesday, hours after the former CNN anchor conducted an interview with the erratic billionaire for the debut episode of his new independent web-based show.

“Elon publicly encouraged me to join X with a new show, saying I would have his ‘full support,’” Lemon said in a statement, adding that he took Musk at his word that he was “interested in working directly with diverse voices.”

Lemon said the sit-down he conducted with Musk for the first episode of “The Don Lemon Show,” which will be released Monday on social media platforms including X and YouTube, was “respectful and wide ranging” and that “there were no restrictions on the interview that he willingly agreed to.”

“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,” Lemon added.

In a video posted on his Instagram page Wednesday, Lemon took further aim at Musk’s claim to be a “free speech absolutist.”

“Throughout our conversation I kept reiterating to him, although it was tense at times, I thought it was good for people to see our exchange,” Lemon said. “But apparently free speech absolutism doesn’t apply when it comes to questions about him from people like me.”

A spokesperson for X did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But a spokesperson for Lemon told CNN that the media personality expects Musk to honor the financial terms of the agreement.

“Don has a deal with X and expects to be paid for it,” the spokesperson said. “If we have to go to court we will.”

Musk has claimed to believe in free speech absolutism, but he has repeatedly taken steps to limit the speech of critics. The billionaire has at times suspended journalists from his platform and filed lawsuits against watchdogs for publishing reports critical of X.

While Musk frequently launches ugly attacks on journalists and traditional news organizations, he has simultaneously elevated conspiracy theories and extremist rhetoric.

Last year, Musk endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory, which resulted in droves of advertisers fleeing X. Only then, days afterward, did Musk publicly express remorse for his actions.

Lemon was ousted from CNN last year, in a decision that the longtime anchor said left him “stunned.” No specific reason was given by CNN for Lemon’s dismissal, but it came after he was widely criticized for making sexist comments about then-GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley. Lemon apologized for the remarks at the time, saying, “When I make a mistake, I own it. And I own this one as well.”

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