CNN tapped two veteran executive producers on Monday to oversee Don Lemon’s ratings-challenged and controversy-marred “CNN This Morning.”
Longtime CNN producer Lauren Mensch and Chris Russell, who recently was the executive producer for NewsNation’s “On Balance with Leland Vittert,” will grab the reins from Eric Hall, according to the cable news network.
The moves come amid a flurry of bad publicity for Lemon. The host infamously put his foot in his mouth last month by claiming GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley was not “in her prime,” which not only upset co-anchors Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collin but ignited a firestorm of criticism that led to Lemon publicly apologizing and being sent to “formal training.”
His tone-deaf remark was ridiculed Sunday by Michelle Yeoh in her acceptance speech after the 60-year-old Malaysian star won the Oscar for Best Actress.
“This is proof that dreams, dream big, and dreams do come true. And ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you’re ever past your prime,” said Yeoh in an apparent jab at Lemon.
Lemon also reportedly had an off-air blow-up with Collins and has made several on-air gaffe since the revamped show was launched last November.
The new producers bring plenty of experience to try to right the sinking ship. Mensch was most recently executive producer of “CNN Newsroom” with Alisyn Camerota and Victor Blackwell. She will lead the show’s editorial direction and lead the team in the control room during the 6-9 a.m. hours.
Russell, who previously worked with CNN CEO Chris Licht at CBS News, will lead production during the dayside and evening hours to set the show up for the following morning.
They will report to Ryan Kadro, senior vice president of content strategy.
Hall was abruptly reassigned in late January from his “CNN This Morning” gig and moved to a new role at the 11 p.m. hour of “CNN Tonight” amid the Lemon-induced flareups and low ratings.
Last month, “CNN This Morning” reeled in 360,000 average total viewers and 73,000 viewers in the all-important 25 to 54-year-old demographic.
By comparison, Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” averaged 1.2 million total viewers and 170,000 average demo viewers for the month. MNSBC’s “Morning Joe” nabbed 895,000 total viewers and 107,000 demo viewers.