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Elon Musk's X cancels partnership with Don Lemon before his new show even begins

Don Lemon leans on a door frame while looking up
Former CNN anchor Don Lemon at his Long Island, N.Y., home in 2020. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Don Lemon received his first lesson in doing business with Elon Musk, the mercurial owner of social media platform X.

The former CNN host interviewed Musk for the first edition of his new podcast, "The Don Lemon Show," which was scheduled to launch next week on X, formerly known as Twitter, and other online platforms.

Lemon said Wednesday in an X post that Musk was not happy with the sitdown and killed the deal to carry the program on the platform.

The episode will air Monday on YouTube and other platforms. Lemon said he will post the interview on X as well.

"This has not changed anything about the show except for my relationship with Elon and X," Lemon said in a video.

X announced in January that it had a financial deal to premiere “The Don Lemon Show” with additional exclusive content before it becomes available elsewhere.

Lemon invited the billionaire founder of Tesla onto his first program. Musk agreed and the interview was conducted Tuesday with no restrictions.

Lemon said his questions were "respectful and wide ranging," covering topics that ranged from SpaceX to the presidential election.

Read more: As a nation looks for answers on George Floyd, CNN's Don Lemon steps up

"We had a good conversation," Lemon said in a statement on X. "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."

In a post that was shared but no longer appears on Musk's X account, the entrepreneur criticized Lemon's handling of the interview.

"His approach was basically 'CNN but on social media,' which doesn't work, as evidenced by the fact that CNN is dying," Musk wrote. "And, instead of it being the real Don Lemon, it was really just Jeff Zucker talking through Don, so lacked authenticity."

Zucker is the former CNN boss who boosted Lemon's career at the cable news channel.

Musk's post added that Lemon is still welcome to use the X platform to build viewership for his new program.

Lemon had a mostly successful 17-year run at CNN, where he became more of a commentator in the later part of his tenure. The network scored the best ratings in its history in 2020 when Lemon held the 10 p.m. time period.

After CNN became part of Warner Bros. Discovery in 2022, the network hired Chris Licht to run the news channel with a mandate to move it more to the political center and feature more Republicans.

Lemon, who is a harsh critic of former President Trump, was moved out of his prime-time role in 2022 and onto a new ensemble morning program after being a solo act for years. The belief within much of CNN is that he was being set up to fail.

Lemon was fired on April 24, 2023. He collected what was left on his CNN salary — believed to be around $20 million — and began looking at the podcast space for his next move.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.