Don Lemon had an emotional return to the CNN anchor desk Tuesday evening.
The “CNN Tonight” host lost his sister, L’Tanya “Leisa” Lemon Grimes, in an accidental drowning last week after she fell into a neighbor’s pond in Louisiana. Lemon took a brief leave of absence but was back on air Tuesday.
“I am back sitting with you tonight because this is exactly where she would have wanted me to be,” he told viewers.
“Leisa was so proud of me. All she wanted for Christmas this past year was a new ‘CNN Tonight’ T-shirt — she had washed the letters off the old one that I gave her just a few years ago and that’s all she wanted,” he said.
Lemon then expressed gratitude for the outpouring of prayers and encouragement he received over the last week from viewers, politicians and even professional rivals, including Fox News commentator Sean Hannity.
“There’s so much conflict happening right now, I think it’s important for all Americans to know that, something like this, when it happens, it tends to bring out the best in people, even some of my competitors, and people I have raging arguments with on television — you think we hate each other, but we don’t. So I’m going to thank you for your kindness,” he said.
Lemon also thanked his CNN colleagues, including Anderson Cooper.
“Your words mean a lot because I know you know how this is, having lost a sibling,” he said.
Cooper lost his brother, Carter, in 1988.
Lemon got especially emotional as he thanked CNN President Jeff Zucker for staying by his side as he rushed to Louisiana.
“I will never forget that you wouldn’t leave my office. You wouldn’t go home until I got in a car and on a plane,” Lemon said, wiping away tears.
Lemon also thanked his boyfriend, Tim Malone, “the love of my life, who got on a plane without asking and sat in my mom’s driveway for two hours.”
Grimes fell into a neighborhood pond while fishing last week in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, according to The Times-Picayune. She was 58.