What do progressive CNN host Don Lemon and retrogressive President Donald Trump have in common?
As of Thursday morning, both appeared to be acquiring to the ancient wisdom that says a woman over 40 might as well be dead, or if in Hollywood, playing the grandmother of her male peer.
As a female, newly announced GOP presidential candidate “Nikki Haley is not in her prime, I’m sorry,” Lemon said on “CNN This Morning.” And at age 51, she said, Haley is in no position to question the mental acuity of politicians over 75. “When a woman is in her prime,” she said authoritatively, she’s “in her 20s, 30s and maybe 40s.” Perhaps.
One of her two co-hosts, Poppy Harlow, replied in amazement: “Wait!” — while the other, Kaitlan Collins, whom Lemon has accused in the past of cutting him off the air, did no such thing on Thursday. Instead, she let him continue digging. (“Enjoy China!” Her look said on her face.)
“It’s not my opinion,” that a woman’s “first” is that short, Lemon told Harlow.
“First for what?” she asked.
“It depends. It’s just like, first. If you look it up, if you Google it, ‘When is a woman in her prime?’ she’ll say 20s, 30s, 40s… I’m not saying I agree But at 51, she repeated, Haley “has to be careful about saying that, you know, politicians are in their prime” since neither is she.
Whether you support it or not, it’s absurd. Haley served as Governor of South Carolina and under Trump, as US Ambassador to the United Nations. He has more relevant experience than anyone else in their 20s and 30s.
“Are you talking premieres for, like, pregnancy?” Harlow wondered. “Or are you talking about primes to be president?”
“Don’t shoot the messenger,” Lemon told her. “I’m just stating what the facts are. Search it on Google. Everybody home, when is a woman in her prime? You say 20s, 30s and 40s. I’m just saying Nikki Haley should [be] careful to say [politicians] they are not at their peak and should be when needed. It wouldn’t be at its peak according to Google or whatever it is.
Lemon citing “Google or whatever” as his solid source hopefully has CNN CEO Chris Licht wondering if this is really the kind of “refreshing conversation” the show claims it wants.
Since you can’t even run for president until you’re 35, was Lemon saying that women have “maybe” just a five-year window in which to do it?
If he was trying to call out ageism in Haley’s idea that all pols over 75 should take cognitive tests, responding to ageism with more of the same, along with some sexism, wasn’t the way to do it.
But in Mar-a-Lago, the Don who makes the news instead of dissecting it must have heard these appalling comments and nodded. He has made many creepy comments about extremely young women, even admiringly stating years ago that Jeffrey Epstein is “a lot of fun to be around. It is also said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are younger.”
Trump’s actual interest in women of any age has always seemed performative and limited by his perpetual immaturity to the doggedness and trophy-collecting he boasted about.
But it’s more surprising that Lemon, who is engaged to Tim Malone, hasn’t let his race, politics, sexual orientation or age, which is 56, stop him from sounding like Hugh Hefner circa 1960 .
Thursday afternoon, Lemon had tweeted the predictable apology: “The reference I made this morning to a woman’s ‘flower’ was artificial and irrelevant, as colleagues and loved ones have pointed out, and I regret it. A woman’s age does not define her personally or professionally. I have countless women in my life who prove it every day.
His reference was not contrived, but antediluvian. And the women in his life shouldn’t have told him that.
Melinda Henneberger: @MelindaSacBee