Don Lemon sounded off Thursday night, insisting that his new job co-hosting CNN’s morning show is a “promotion” — even as the network axed his primetime show.
CNN boss Chris Licht revealed the network’s programming overhaul on Thursday that will see the left-leaning primetime host yanked from his plum solo slot and moved to a newly created morning show that he will co-host with Kaitlan Collins and Poppy Harlow.
“I was presented with an opportunity that I can’t pass up at this network.” Lemon insisted on his ratings-challenged 10 p.m. show “Don Lemon Tonight.”
He continued: “And we have a new boss who is a morning show impresario, and he wants a morning show that will kick off the editorial direction of the network every single day, and I am honored that he would ask me to do it.”
Licht has been tasked with lifting the ratings at the third-place CNN, which includes remaking the cable news network’s primetime lineup, as well as reinventing its flailing morning show, “New Day.” Part of that reinvention includes moving away from punditry and toward centrist, fact-based reporting.
In recent weeks, the network canned Brian Stelter, the outspoken host of the now-canceled “Reliable Sources,” and axed both John Harwood and scandal-scarred Jeffrey Toobin amid buzz that “New Day” anchors John Berman and Brianna Keilar were next.
But Lemon told viewers Thursday that the move to the new morning show was his choice.
“For all of those who are out there saying, oh, he moved me, and without my — he asked me and I said yes. I could have said no,” Lemon said. “This is my show. I have a contract for this show. I decided that I would take him up on that and take this journey with him.”
“This is not someone moving me,” the anchor continued. “And by the way, this is not someone saying, ‘You must move to the right, Don Lemon. And you must not be so — give so much of your perspective.’ None of that has happened. All of that is fodder for Twitter, which is not real. So stop it.
“I was not demoted, none of that. This is an opportunity,” Lemon added. “This is a promotion.”
But naysayers pointed to Stelter, who also had three years left on his contract when he was ousted last month.
CNN did not comment on Lemon’s new contract. Lemon’s agent also declined to comment when asked if the anchor’s salary was increased.
Lemon — who often espoused his liberal opinions on his show — helmed the lowest-ranked program in primetime in August, averaging 660,000 viewers to finish a distant third to Fox and MSNBC.
In August, Fox News dominated with nine shows making the top 10 highest-rated cable news shows. Only MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pulled out a fifth-place ranking with 2.7 million viewers, lagging behind Fox’s “The Five” (3.4 million), “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (3.3 million), “Hannity” (2.9 million) and “Jesse Watters Primetime” (2.9 million).
The only CNN show to crack the top 25 was “Anderson Cooper 360” — in 25th place with 950,000 viewers.
Meanwhile, “New Day” came in 42nd place out of 82 cable news shows, bringing in 396,000 total viewers.
CNN did not provide a start date for the changes but said it will rename “New Day” and update its set later this year. Berman and Keilar will remain at the network, Licht said.
Licht is known for his previous success launching MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and revamping CBS’ morning show, which was then called “CBS This Morning.” Both shows featured lively conversation about current topics and news of the day between its hosts and a broad selection of guests.
CNN told The Post that the network will be making an announcement on who will replace Lemon in the next few weeks.