After a hallucinatory 17-year-long run at CNN—which included heinous interviews with Bill Cosby accusers, intrepid reporting on the density of marijuana smoke at Ferguson protests, and, more recently, a string of sexism allegations broken by Variety that date back at least 15 years—Don Lemon is out at CNN. Under the coverage of the much more substantial Tucker Carlson dismissal, he made the announcement on his Twitter account this morning, where he settled a few scores and wished his co-workers well, all with … gigantic purple-hued text?
It’s really the perfect coda for just how strange his stint at CNN turned out to be. I mean, just look at this monstrosity:
There are more important reckonings to chew on with Lemon’s termination beyond his farewell note. There is the question of CNN’s decision to harbor a slew of dubious flunkies who serve only to humiliate one of the most powerful news operations in America (Piers Morgan, Chris Cuomo, Corey Lewandowski, and so on). You must also consider why it took this long for Lemon to be served his papers, considering he once made national headlines for asking the aforementioned Cosby accuser if she considered “biting” her assailant’s penis after being coerced into oral sex. (This was 2014, by the way, not 1992.)
But currently, all of my focus is on this ridiculous, embittered, 72-point farewell post that can only fit, like, six letters per line break. The whole thing is 115 words long, and I somehow have to scroll down to read it all. What the hell happened here?
Most famous people in crisis have mastered the art of the Notes App announcement/apology/self-justification in 2023. Everyone from Taylor Swift to Drake has figured out how to dispense news that’s Too Serious for a Twitter Thread with a precise, legible format: a tasteful sans-serif Arial or Arial facsimile, with black text on a gray background, as God intended. Lemon has broken all of those rules. First off, the lettering is blue, for totally unexplained reasons, which makes it seem as if the entirety of his paragraph is hyperlinked off to some unknown domain. (Some of my eagle-eyed Slate colleagues believe that this is because Lemon wrote the post as a reply in Outlook. I do not use Outlook because I am not a member of AARP, so I’ll take their word for it.)
The screenshot itself is cropped at uncomfortable, razor-tight margins, eschewing any sort of salutation. There is no “Dear Viewers” or “To the CNN Faithful” or “This goes out to all the Lemon-heads out there” to speak of. And most glaringly, the font size is bafflingly huge. It’s big enough to fit on the tailplane of a 787. Lemon has cranked up the slider so high that he has 15 words occupying four lines of text. The former anchor has also revealed himself to be a double-space-after-a-period guy, ballooning out his diction even further. I almost think he’s in on the joke.
My working theory is that Lemon was waiting for the opportune time to put his firing out into the world. CNN said Lemon, who was on-air Monday, “was offered an opportunity to meet with management” about his fate. Instead, when Fox parted ways with Tucker Carlson and it became clear that the intrigue and fallout from that divorce would totally overshadow the plight of a CNN host in an off-election year, I think Lemon raced to his keyboard and let it fly. Who cares about legible formatting when you’ve been blessed with the gift of a crowded news day? What a spectacular way to end the Don Lemon CNN experience. I’m genuinely fearful of what he’s capable of on his own.