Updated Mar 13, 2024 - Business

Don Lemon says Elon Musk canceled his new show after "tense" interview

Don Lemon in Beverly Hills, California, in February 2024.

Don Lemon. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Former CNN anchor Don Lemon said on Wednesday that Elon Musk canceled his new show on X, formerly Twitter, after he interviewed the multibillionaire last week.

Why it matters: The split comes as X CEO Linda Yaccarino announced the platform is shifting to "video first" and Musk has tried to broker deals with high-profile content creators.

What they're saying: Lemon claimed Musk, a self-proclaimed free speech "absolutist," was "mad" at him over the "tense" interview, which will be included in the premiere episode of "The Don Lemon Show" next week.

  • "Apparently, free speech absolutism doesn't apply when it comes to questions about him from people like me," Lemon said in a video on X.
  • "There were no restrictions on the interview that he willingly agreed to, and my questions were respectful and wide ranging, covering everything from SpaceX to the presidential election," Lemon said in a separate post.
  • Lemon said he agreed to join X with the new show after Musk publicly encouraged him to do so.

Zoom in: "Don has a deal with X and expects to be paid for it. If we have to go to court we will," Lemon's spokesperson, Allison Gollust, said in a statement to Puck.

The other side: Axios has confirmed that X did not have a signed contract with Lemon, although there was a mutual understanding that such an agreement would soon be codified.

  • One of X's official accounts said on Wednesday that Lemon's show is welcome to publish its content on X "without censorship."
  • "However, like any enterprise, we reserve the right to make decisions about our business partnerships, and after careful consideration, X decided not to enter into a commercial partnership with the show," it said.
  • X did not specify why it did not partner with the show.

Of note: Just hours before Lemon announced that X dropped his show, Musk posted, "Free speech is the bedrock of democracy."

  • During an interview with Lemon later Wednesday, CNN aired clips from the new show. In one, Lemon asked Musk if he believes both he and X have a responsibility to moderate hate speech on the platform, alluding to comments the entrepreneur has made about Jewish people.
  • "I don't have to answer questions from reporters," Musk said. "Don, the only reason I'm doing this interview is because you're on the X platform and you asked for it," Musk responded, adding that he "could care less" about being criticized.

Between the lines: Since Musk purchased Twitter, the platform has been lenient to those who post hateful or extremist content while cracking down on other forms of speech.

  • Musk personally reinstated the account of Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist who spread conspiracy theories about the children killed during the Sandy Hook school shooting.
  • The platform has also suspended accounts belonging to white supremacist Nick Fuentes for antisemitic comments only to reinstate and again ban the accounts later.
  • The platform has also temporarily suspended the accounts of journalists who cover Musk and permanently suspended an account that used public information to track the billionaire's private jet.

The big picture: Watchdog groups have also said X has repeatedly failed to remove posts including "extreme hate speech" that were in clear violation of its policies.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details, including confirmation of no signed contract between X and Don Lemon, and excerpts from his interview on CNN.

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