One of the worst-kept secrets within establishment media circles is that (leaning in to whisper) left-leaning news networks want Donald Trump to be president again. Despite the liberal media’s positively contentious and duplicitous relationship with all things Trump, even the most hardened CNN fans (surely, those exist somewhere) have to admit he is a lightning rod. The former president’s uncanny ability to elicit the strongest emotions — regardless of whether that emotion comes from a place of love or hate — has always translated to strong ratings. While Fox News has largely navigated a post-Trump news cycle with aplomb, dominating its competition in virtually every meaningful viewership metric, other news networks have flailed about trying to recapture the Trumpian boost that buttressed their ratings from 2016 to 2020. CNN neatly falls into the category of “network flailing without Trump” and, as part of a general company restructure to be less blatantly biased, moved some of its most prominent faces around in the hopes that a change of time slot and scenery could reinvigorate those lacking ratings. Well. In a weird way, CNN has, in fact, boosted its ratings with some of this restructuring, according to a New York Post report Thursday — just not in the way new CEO Chris Licht probably envisioned. One of the bigger names moved by Licht was host Don Lemon, who went from his primetime show to CNN’s feeble attempt to recreate the success of rival Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” with a morning show of its own. “CNN This Morning” features Lemon along with Kaitlan Collins and Poppy Harlow discussing the news and events you may have missed while you were sleeping. “Fox & Friends” it is not, at least in terms of ratings. But in terms of entertainment value? Perhaps there’s something there — largely because Lemon keeps making unforced errors and irking his co-hosts. Is the entertainment value really just schadenfreude? Absolutely. But even that wasn’t enough to boost the abysmal ratings that “CNN This Morning” was drawing. Derided as the worst morning news show in a decade, it was humming along with its poor ratings, nary a salve in sight, when Lemon decided to annoy Collins, Harlow and a large segment of the viewing audience. Lemon, taking a bizarre potshot at GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley, claimed the 51-year-old Haley was “past her prime” because of her age, and if you had a problem with Lemon’s statement, he made sure to cite his source: a cursory Google search. “She says people, you know, politicians or something are not in their prime. Nikki Haley isn’t in her prime. Sorry,” Lemon said on the Feb. 16 episode of “CNN This Morning.” “When a woman is considered to be in her prime — in her 20s and 30s and maybe 40s. That’s not according to me. If you Google ‘when is a woman in her prime,’ it’ll say 20s, 30s and 40s. I’m not saying I agree with it.” The thought of a grown man Googling “What is a woman’s prime?” notwithstanding, Lemon’s belittling comment (it’s worth noting he is 56, five years older than “past her prime” Nikki Haley) obviously sparked quite a bit of outrage among his female peers — and some bigwigs behind the scenes as well. Ultimately offering a flaccid and strange apology, Lemon returned to “CNN This Morning” on Wednesday, but not without one last potential embarrassment: “CNN This Morning” enjoyed a ratings bump while he was out. While the bump was modest and it’s nowhere near enough for CNN to compete with Fox News (or even MSNBC at this point), numbers are numbers, and Lemon cannot be thrilled with the possibility that he’s anchor sinking the show’s ratings. “Following the backlash from his remarks on presidential candidate Nikki Haley’s age, Lemon’s two-day absence from the studio actually appears to have boosted the network’s average ratings,” Dallas Lawrence, a senior vice president at Samba TV, told the Post. “Average viewership the two days following his comments was up 5% compared to the average daily viewership the week before,” Lawrence said. “In fact, two out of the three most-watched days in the past eight analyzed were the days in which Lemon was absent.” It is worth noting that Nielsen, the most oft-cited resource for television ratings, disputes Lawrence’s claim, according to the Post, saying “CNN This Morning” ratings dipped during Lemon’s absence. Interestingly, Nielsen also said female viewership dropped by a stark 20 percent during Lemon’s hiatus. Look, at the end of the day, “CNN This Morning” is a failing show. Whether the show enjoyed a 5 percent increase in ratings or a 20 percent dip during Lemon’s absence is like arguing about a hangnail on a corpse. At this point, it’s become painfully clear that “CNN This Morning” has just one key selling point: What will Don Lemon do today to embarrass himself and his network? While Lemon’s foibles are certainly entertaining, the name of the game is still getting eyeballs on television sets. And that’s one game that CNN is losing handily — no matter what its stars are doing. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.