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New details about Don Lemon's ouster say CNN execs left 'exasperated' after race-focused debate with GOP guest

Paul Marotta/Getty Images

Don Lemon's contentious interview with Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy last week may have been the straw that broke the camel's back for CNN executives.

Last Wednesday, "CNN This Morning" hosted Ramaswamy to discuss his campaign and his views on critical issues. But the interview derailed when Lemon took issue with Ramaswamy's assertion that the first gun control laws in American history were enacted after the Civil War to prevent freed slaves from exercising their Second Amendment rights.

At one point in that interview, Lemon asserted that Ramaswamy was not allowed to speak about the issue because he is not black. After minutes of tense back-and-forth, Lemon swiftly ended the interview.

According to sources who spoke to the New York Times, that interview left CNN executives "exasperated."

But the interview was just one more piece of a house of cards that ultimately collapsed on Monday.

It came weeks after a Variety exposé publicized new allegations against Lemon, charging him with more than a decade of misogynistic and abusive behavior toward his female colleagues at CNN. The network fiercely defended Lemon from those accusations.

That exposé came about two months after Lemon's most controversial moment. After Nikki Haley announced her presidential campaign, Lemon declared that Haley, at just 51 years old, is past her "prime." That charge caused internal uproar at CNN and a tidal wave of backlash online. Lemon was benched for several days from "CNN This Morning" and was subjected to sensitivity training.

Before the Haley controversy, Lemon was accused of leaving his CNN crew "rattled" after "screaming" at Kaitlan Collins, his "CNN This Morning" co-host.

According to the New York Times, the accumulation of controversial incidents meant "executives at CNN gradually concluded that his future at CNN had become untenable, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the internal discussions were sensitive."

More from the Times:

In recent weeks, CNN’s bookers had discovered that some guests did not want to appear on the air with Mr. Lemon, and research on the morning show reviewed by CNN executives found that his popularity with audiences had fallen, one of the people said.

Perhaps it was fitting, then, that Collins and Poppy Harlow spent less than 40 seconds addressing Lemon's departure from the show they co-hosted with him.

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