Tensions on the set of “CNN This Morning” have recently boiled over, with Don Lemon allegedly “screaming” at co-host Kaitlan Collins off-camera during an unpleasant December incident that has left the solid and crew rattled ever since, The Post has learned.
In keeping with two sources with knowledge of the situation, the 56-year-old Lemon approached 30-year-old Collins following the show’s Thursday Dec. 8 broadcast — and unloaded on her in front of staffers as he accused her of “interrupting” him on air.
“Don screamed at Kaitlan, who was visibly upset and ran out of the studio,” one source with knowledge of the skrimish said.
News of the explosive incident made its way as much as CNN CEO Chris Licht, who is alleged to have been appalled by Lemon’s behavior, based on a source. A second source said a producer talked to Lemon on the behest of Licht and told the anchor to take the subsequent time off to “cool off.”
Don Lemon (right) lashed out at his co-host Kaitlan Collins (left) after a tense segment. Don Lemon/Facebook
The next night, the three co-hosts were slated to get drinks and arrive together at a White House Christmas party for the press, a source said. However the pre-party gathering never happened after the emotional day they usually trickled in to the bash individually, an insider with knowledge said. After the party, Lemon had a late-night dinner along with his agent, Jay Sures, based on sources.
The situation was especially awkward because Collins — a rising star who had most recently served as CNN’s youngest chief White House correspondent — can also be represented by the powerful and well-connected Sures. While he dined with Lemon, Collins met up with the show’s other co-anchor Poppy Harlow, the sources said.
“At this point, Kaitlan desires to be on set with Don as little as possible,” a source with knowledge of the situation added. “It’s messy.”
Co-hosts Poppy Harlow (L) and Kaitlan Collins (R) arrived on the White House Christmas party without Don Lemon (center) after his blow up earlier that day. CNN/Twitter
Neither Lemon nor Collins responded to requests for comment.
A rep from CNN declined to comment on the incident but said: “In only three months, these anchors have created a compelling morning show that breaks news and drives the conversation.”
The Dec. 8 blowup wasn’t the primary sign of trouble at “CNN This Morning” because the show’s Nov. 1 launch. Per week earlier, Lemon got into a clumsy dispute with Collins and Harlow on air, arguing that the US men’s soccer team should receives a commission greater than the ladies’s team despite the mens’ relative lack of success on the World Cup.
The dustup made headlines, with the Every day Beast quoting Lemon saying the boys were “more interesting to look at” — a comment Lemon quickly walked back and insisted was a joke.
CNN CEO Chris Licht was upset by Lemon’s behavior towards Collins and had the anchor take the subsequent time off, sources said. Getty Images for CNN
Late last month, Eric Hall, executive producer of “CNN This Morning,” was reportedly ousted from the helm of the show and moved to a recent role on the 11 p.m. hour of “CNN Tonight.” CNN didn’t comment on the move. Earlier this week, the network tapped former CBS producer Chris Russell to switch Hall.
Collins and Lemon, meanwhile, have been on set together less ceaselessly because the purported dustup. Lemon was most recently sent to Memphis to quarterback coverage on the death of Tyre Nichols. Collins had been working remotely from Washington DC on and off in January.
A CNN rep said Collins has been on project as she also serves because the chief correspondent for the show, adding: “The intent was at all times for the anchors to get out from behind the news desk, they usually are doing a rare job taking viewers inside crucial news stories of the day.”
The Dec. 8 blowup by Lemon wasn’t the primary sign of trouble at “CNN This Morning” because the show’s Nov. 1 launch. Lemon and Collins had a clumsy on-air dispute over equal pay for the US women’s soccer team.CBS via Getty Images
To deal with tensions, a second source told The Post that “Don has been given notes” by the show’s producers “to not talk a lot, to let other people talk.”
“Don’s a bossy guy and difficult to work with — even he would admit that. He was a solo act before. He doesn’t need to be in Destiny’s Child,” the source added, referring to the music group headlined by Beyoncé within the early aughts.
Others near Lemon confirmed the previous primetime anchor is “not glad” about sharing the limelight with Harlow and Collins.
“Don has an intractable ego,” a source near each Licht and Lemon said. “My understanding is he wants the show to be about him. I don’t know the way you fix that. It’s a really difficult situation.”
A second source who has worked with big TV personalities, nevertheless, was inclined to chop Lemon some slack as he struggles to orient himself on a three-person show.
Sources said Lemon was not glad about sharing the limelight with Collins and Harlow.Getty Images for CNN
“It’s never smooth sailing at first,” the source added. “They’re all attempting to get their sea legs.”
Until November, Lemon had hosted his the ten p.m. show “Don Lemon Tonight,” but Licht canceled it amid lackluster rankings and moved him to the morning show, which airs weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.
When news of the reshuffle broke, Lemon ripped reports that called the move a “demotion.” In private, meanwhile, a Lemon confidant told The Post that he “didn’t like” that Collins had worked for the right-leaning website The Every day Caller before her gig covering the Trump White House for CNN.
The Dec. 8 incident was mentioned in passing in a report the next day by Puck News, which said Lemon had “skipped” his hosting duties on the next broadcast on account of “exhaustion.” The report by senior correspondent Dylan Byers said Lemon needed the time off after a “very tense segment” with Collins, who “repeatedly tried to talk over him as he was reading the news, to his apparent annoyance.”
“It’d be hard in charge Lemon for being annoyed,” Byers added. “He’s still a young man, to be certain.”
Media watchers said that despite the fact that the show is slumping within the rankings, the co-hosts are learning to work together. Don Lemon/Facebook
The report raised eyebrows, as Byers can also be represented by Sures’ Hollywood talent agency UTA. Industry sources said Collins’ relationship with Sures, meanwhile, has gone downhill and that communication between them has been spotty.
A source near Licht said Licht’s relationship with Sures — who was once floated by Puck as a possible candidate for the job now held by Licht — has been been “tense at times.” But a source with knowledge said Sures, who represents many CNN clients, met with Licht on the network’s Latest York headquarters Thursday.
Earlier this week, one other Puck report emerged, saying Collins was “having a tough time adapting to her recent project as anchor” at “CNN This Morning” while revealing fresh drops in rankings for the last-place show, which have sunk below those of its predecessor “Latest Day.”
“Collins rose to stardom as a Trump White House correspondent, where she made a reputation for herself as a fearless, take-no-bulls–t reporter, but has yet to seek out her footing behind the desk, sharing the highlight with older and more experienced anchors,” Byers wrote.
Neither Byers nor Sures commented.