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Elon Musk kills Don Lemon’s new X show before it ever began

X has canceled a high-profile partnership with former CNN host Don Lemon to stream a video talk show on the platform. Lemon said that the company canceled his contract hours after he interviewed X’s billionaire owner Elon Musk for the first episode of “The Don Lemon Show,” which was scheduled to stream on the platform this Monday.

“Elon Musk is mad at me,” Lemon said in a video posted to X on Wednesday. “Apparently, free speech absolutism doesn’t apply when it comes to questions about him from people like me.”

Lemon’s announcement came a day after company CEO Linda Yaccarino declared that X was becoming a “video first” platform. It announced the partnership with Lemon in January as part of a larger strategy to stream more original content on the service. This included striking deals with former representative Tulsi Gabbard and sports radio commentator Jim Rome to stream their own shows on the platform. Last year, X reportedly made a similar deal with Tucker Carlson after he was fired from his hosting duties at Fox News. X’s decision to cancel Lemon’s show raises questions about the company’s strategy.

“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,” X said in a statement. “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.”

Lemon said that he will now stream the first episode of “The Don Lemon Show” on X, YouTube and other podcast platforms, and is preparing for a legal fight in case X refuses what is reportedly a multi-million dollar payout. “Don has a deal with X and he expects to be paid for it,” a spokesperson for Lemon told Variety. “If we have to go to court, we will.” However, two anonymous sources claimed to Semafor that Lemon may not have actually signed a contract with X. Musk has a history of withholding payments. A group of former Twitter executives including the company’s ex-CEO Parag Agrawal are suing Musk and X over millions of dollars in unpaid severance benefits.

Lemon’s interview with Musk, which was recorded on Friday, spanned a wide range of topics including the presidential election, and, reportedly, the billionaire’s alleged ketamine use, the subject of a Wall Street Journal story published earlier this year. “Hardcore questions were asked,” Lemon told an X user. In a written statement, Lemon said that he had a “good conversation” with Musk, but the billionaire clearly didn’t seem to think so.

Musk wrote that Lemon’s approach was “basically just ‘CNN, but on social media’, which doesn’t work, as evidenced by the fact that CNN is dying,” in response to a user asking X about specific reasons for terminating the partnership with Lemon. “And, instead of it being the real Don Lemon,” Musk sniped, “it was really just [former CNN President] Jeff Zucker talking through Don, so lacked authenticity.”

Lemon was fired from CNN nearly a year ago after making on-air remarks against former Republican presidential contender Nikki Haley that many considered sexist and ageist, as well as reports showing he engaged in misogynistic behavior over his 15-year tenure at CNN.

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