Former CNN anchor Don Lemon is set to celebrate Pride Month by hosting Emil Wilbekin’s 7th annual Native Son Awards at Barry Diller’s IAC building in New York.
The ousted host, 57, who was fired from CNN in April following a 17-year stint at the network as part of an apparent shake-up of its image as a liberal station – and who came out as gay in his 2011 memoir ‘Transparent’ – will mark the 16 June event as Emil wants to “shine a light” on black and queer men.
Emil said in a statement: “For this year’s awards, we really wanted to shine a light on those who are using their platforms to bring visibility to all the beautiful ways in which black, queer men show up in the world.
“Having Don host this year’s award feels like a full circle moment for Native Son. He is one of the most visible black gay men in media, and his presence reinforces the importance and impact of our community.”
Page Six highlighted how Don was among the first figures to be honoured by the awards – which aim to highlight “the achievements of Black gay and queer men who are leaders in their respective industries” – at its first gala in 2016.
The organisation stood in solidarity with the reporter when he was ousted from CNN in April, posting: “As one chapter closes, a new one will open. We thank you Don Lemon for speaking truth to power.”
Since he was ousted, Don has maintained a relatively low profile, and told Page Six at the Time 100 gala that he plans to “enjoy my summer, spend it on the beach and have a great time… that’s it!”
The awards show will also honour Patrik Ian-Polk, Tony nominee Jordan E Cooper, Chester Algernal Gordon, Elegance Bratton, James Cole Jr, Nicco Annan, Bishop O C Allen, Rashad Burgess, Jason Bolden and Adair Curtis.
Don’s ousting was widely seen as part of a move by network boss Chris Licht’s campaign to shake up the network’s liberal-leaning image and reinvent it as a down-the-middle and facts-first news organisation.
It was last week reported Don’s tensions with Chris, 51, dated back at least to last autumn, when the outlet said a wardrobe dispute erupted during a rehearsal.
The Atlantic said in early November, during a final rehearsal before the launch of ‘CNN This Morning’, Lemon baffled producers by arriving back on set from a break wearing a white jacket with fur collar over a turtleneck.
Chris is said to have asked in the control room: “What the f*** is he wearing?”, according to a first-hand account from Atlantic staff writer Tim Alberta, who was there working on a lengthy profile of the boss.
A junior producer was said to have reluctantly relayed Chris’ concern through Don’s earpiece, which apparently provoked a “miffed” look from the CNN host as he was allegedly told: “Don, uhh, we’re not too crazy about the jacket in here.”
Chris took over as chair and CEO of CNN Worldwide in February 2022, following the dismissal of his predecessor Jeff Zucker, 58, over an undisclosed romance with his top lieutenant.
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