Prime seating at a sports event might be courtside at the Lakers. A prime cut of meat is better quality and more expensive. But a woman is in her “prime” when she’s in her “20s, 30s, or maybe 40s,” according to Don Lemon. He’s an authority on this because he looked it up on Google.
Here we go again. A man in a prime position (who was recently moved out of prime time to the morning news slot on CNN) commenting on the perceived value of a woman in the public eye.
In response to Nikki Haley’s comment that our current politicians are past their prime, Lemon, who is four years shy of his 60th birthday, had the nerve to say, “Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime. Sorry. A woman is considered in her prime when she’s in her 20s, 30s, maybe 40s.” Haley is 51.
When Lemon, seated between two accomplished female journalists, sees how his co-anchor Poppy Harlow looks at him, he adds, “That’s not according to me.”
“Prime for what?” Harlow, who is 40, shot back.
The ages of none of the anchors—nor Haley—would be relevant except in the context of this story.
“It depends,” he said. “It’s just like prime. You look it up. If you Google, ‘When is a woman in her prime?’ it will say 20s, 30s, and 40s.”
“40s,” said Harlow. “Oh, I got another decade.”
Lemon frantically backpedaled, adding, “I don’t necessarily agree with [Google’s answer]; [Haley] just has to be careful about saying that.”
But Harlow wasn’t having it. “Prime for, like, childbearing? You don’t need to qualify it. Or are you talking about prime for being President?”
The other co-anchor, Katlin Collins, 30, stayed out of the fracas, and the ages of none of the anchors—nor Haley—would be relevant except in the context of this story.
Here We Go Again
Live television is so unforgiving. It’s easy to slip up and say something stupid, then try to correct yourself. But anyone who could make a statement like that, and any journalist who would brandish the Google defense of that remark on a set with two women had better be prepared for the blowback.
We think the older a woman gets, the more prime she becomes. Especially when she makes a bold move like running for President.
In the next morning’s editorial call, CNN Chairman Christ Licht said it was “disappointing.” He added, “His remarks were upsetting, unacceptable, and unfair to his co-hosts,” according to the New York Times.
MSNBC reporter Ali Vitali, author of Electable: Why America Hasn’t Put a Woman in the White House…Yet tweeted this: “With the start of each new presidential cycle comes the chance for reporters to do better, less sexist, more fair coverage of all candidates. This is a clear example of how not to do that. But we all have the next year to get it right next time.”
There was tension on the CNN This Morning set before this brouhaha, and Lemon is said to be resentful about his “demotion” from solo anchor to part of an anchor team. Sometimes a little healthy tension, or bloopers like this one, attract more viewers who enjoy rubbernecking.
“Inartful and Irrelevant”
But Lemon’s tweeted apology was pitch perfect. He called his remarks “inartful and irrelevant,” adding that he regrets it. “A woman’s age doesn’t define her either personally or professionally.”
That’s either a man on an apology tour of the socials or one smart enough to hire a woman to handle his accounts.
Make no mistake. This is not a cancel culture moment. No matter what you think of Haley or her politics, we think the older a woman gets, the more prime she becomes. Especially when she puts herself out there and makes a bold move like running for President.
Since a Biden–Trump matchup is a strong possibility in 2024, ageism will be on the menu—and you can bet that women candidates will have the added burden of sexist takes on what they wear, their family responsibilities, their voice, and their hairstyle.
But that doesn’t mean we have to just sit back and take it. This is a shining example of sexist ageism, and we are calling it out whenever and wherever we see it.