CNN’s Don Lemon Gives Tearful Jeff Zucker Eulogy To Open His Show

CNN anchor Don Lemon offered an emotional tribute to former boss Jeff Zucker to open his Friday show.

Zucker resigned as president from CNN Wednesday, blaming his departure on not disclosing his relationship with Allison Gollust, an EVP and CMO at the company.

More from Deadline

“It’s been a really tough day, today, and a tough few days for us here at CNN. All week, really. I didn’t want to talk about until tonight,” Lemon told viewers. “So the truth is that we’re all heartbroken because we lost our leader here. We lost a man who was the backbone, the glue and the spirit of this company, the man who I personally credit with change in my life, the man who believed in me when nobody else did. He is the reason that you have a gay Black man with two hours of primetime, a show with my name on it, the only anchor of color in primetime on cable news, think about that. You want to talk about diversity? Here it is.”

Lemon continued, “It has been hard to come into work this week, not only for me but for so many of us here at CNN, my colleagues, 3,000 of us, more than 3,000 of us. So let me just say this to my colleagues who may not have been here as long as I have the younger folks who haven’t weathered the storms,” Lemon continued. “I’ve been at this network for almost 16 years. We have been through ups and downs ratings, rating highs, rating lows, everything, regime changes, we’ve been through a lot. And through it all our mission has remained the same to deliver the facts to deliver the news. It is what we did when Ted Turner turn the lights on here. It is what we did through two Gulf Wars, through 911, through Katrina, through an insurrection.”

Lemon said Zucker was a steadying influence at CNN and made the news organization “relevant again.”

“So for all of you at home watching, you should know that I and my colleagues will continue to do exactly what he would want us to do. And that is to do what I’m going to do right now: deliver the news, no matter what it is, without fear or favor,” Lemon said.

“So, thank you, Jeff Zucker, for everything you did for everyone at this network and for what you did to the entire country — for the entire country.”

Gollust, who is remaining with the company, issued her own statement, saying, “Jeff and I have been close friends and professional partners for over 20 years. Recently, our relationship changed during COVID. I regret that we didn’t disclose it at the right time.”

Best of Deadline

Sign up for Deadline's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.