Home » After Elon Musk Interview, Don Lemon Says His Deal With X Is Canceled

After Elon Musk Interview, Don Lemon Says His Deal With X Is Canceled

by Marko Florentino
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In the wake of a testy interview with Elon Musk, the former television anchor Don Lemon’s deal for a new talk show on X combusted just days before it was scheduled to air.

Mr. Musk called off Mr. Lemon’s partnership with X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, the day after filming an hour-and-a-half long interview with the former news anchor at SpaceX’s office in Austin, Texas. The conversation was occasionally tense, Mr. Lemon said, as he asked probing questions about the upcoming U.S. presidential elections, Mr. Musk’s reported drug use and his various business ventures.

Mr. Lemon said he would release the interview on March 18 on YouTube and would continue to share his content on X. “My questions were respectful and wide ranging, covering everything from SpaceX to the presidential election,” Mr. Lemon said in a statement. “We had a good conversation. Clearly he felt differently. His commitment to a global town square where all questions can be asked and all ideas can be shared seems not to include questions of him from people like me.”

Salespeople at X were blindsided by the news of the abrupt cancellation, as they had been working as recently as Monday to track the sale of ads for the show, according to an internal document seen by The New York Times.

The cancellation of a show that Mr. Musk pledged would have his “full support” is the latest self-inflicted business disruption at X in recent months. In November, Mr. Musk told advertisers not to spend on his platform, using an expletive to dismiss them, and accused them of trying to “blackmail” him after he appeared to endorse an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory on X. His comments kicked off an expensive exodus.

Mr. Musk said in a post on X that Mr. Lemon’s show lacked originality. “His approach was basically just ‘CNN, but on social media,’ which doesn’t work, as evidenced by the fact that CNN is dying,” Mr. Musk wrote. “And, instead of it being the real Don Lemon, it was really just Jeff Zucker talking through Don, so lacked authenticity.”

Mr. Zucker, CNN’s former president, now leads a media-focused investment firm, called RedBird IMI, and oversees EverWonder Studio, a production company that provides services to Mr. Lemon’s show.

Mr. Lemon was one of several headline-grabbing figures, including the former Fox News host Tucker Carlson and the former Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, who have forged agreements this year to produce long-form video content on X, as part of an effort by the platform to bring on content creators to generate premium content that brands would want to advertise against.

X had agreed to throw its financial support behind the creation of Mr. Lemon’s new venture, called “The Don Lemon Show.” But the company said in a statement it would no longer pay Mr. Lemon to create content for the site.

“The Don Lemon Show is welcome to publish its content on X, without censorship, as we believe in providing a platform for creators to scale their work and connect with new communities,” the company said in a statement posted on X. “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.”

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Mr. Lemon said that he would continue to seek payment from X. “Don has a deal with X and expects to be paid for it,” she said. “If we have to go to court, we will.”

X’s recent video deals — including the one with Mr. Lemon — were spearheaded by X’s chief executive, Linda Yaccarino, a former NBC Universal executive who has leaned on her television experience to grow X’s content portfolio. The tumult highlighted the challenges facing Ms. Yaccarino as she tries to woo advertisers and content creators to the platform under the shadow of Mr. Musk’s impulsive leadership.

Ryan Mac contributed reporting.

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