Don Lemon returns to anchor desk after sister's drowning death

CNN’s Don Lemon returned to the anchor desk Tuesday night on the verge of tears as he thanked dozens of people who helped him through the tragic death of his sister, Lisa.

The “CNN Tonight” host took a leave of absence after his older sister, L’Tanya (Leisa) Lemon Grimes, fell into a pond in Louisiana last week and drowned.

“I am back, sitting with you tonight, because this is exactly where she would have wanted me to be,” Lemon told viewers. “Lisa was so proud of me.”

The 51-year-old anchor’s voice trembled as he recalled her wanting a brand new “CNN Tonight” T—shirt for Christmas because the letters on her old one had since faded away.

He then spent nearly three minutes paying tribute to the outpour of prayers and words of encouragement from fans, politicians and broadcast rivals that helped him get through his mournful week.

See photos of Don Lemon:

15 PHOTOS
Don Lemon
See Gallery
Don Lemon
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 09: Don Lemon (L) and John Berman attend the CNN The Seventies Launch Party at Marquee on June 9, 2015 in New York City. 25520_224.JPG (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - MAY 13: (L-R) Wolf Blitzer, Don Lemon and Anderson Cooper attends the Turner Upfront 2015 at Madison Square Garden on May 13, 2015 in New York City. 25201_002_DK_0765.JPG (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Turner)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - MAY 13: Don Lemon attends the Turner Upfront 2015 at Madison Square Garden on May 13, 2015 in New York City. 25201_002_DK_0872.JPG (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Turner)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 13: (L-R) Erin Burnett, Michaela Pereira, Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota attend the Turner Upfront 2015 at Madison Square Garden on May 13, 2015 in New York City. 25201_002_DK_1423.JPG (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Turner)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 08: Don Lemon attends 'The 35 Most Powerful People In Media' celebrated by The Hollywoood Reporter at Four Seasons Restaurant on April 8, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 25: Journalist Don Lemon attends the 101st Annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton on April 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Don Lemon arrives at the White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) annual dinner in Washington, DC, on April 25, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Don Lemon, host, CNN attends the 2014 ADCOLOR Awards After Party Sponsored By BET Networks And Beats Music at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on September 20, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for ADCOLOR Awards)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO, GLAAD, and Don Lemon, host, CNN, attend the 2014 ADCOLOR Awards After Party sponsored by BET Networks and Beats Music at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on September 20, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for ADCOLOR Awards)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Don Lemon, host, CNN, speaks onstage at the 2014 ADCOLOR Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on September 20, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for ADCOLOR Awards)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16: Journalist Don Lemon speaks during ADCOLOR Live! 2014 at One Time Warner Center on June 16, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for ADCOLOR Awards)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: TV news journalist Don Lemon speaks on stage at Housing Works Groundbreaker Awards Dinner at The Metropolitan Pavillion on April 23, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for Housing Works)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Journalist Don Lemon speaks on stage the ADCOLOR Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on September 21, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AdColor)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Journalist Don Lemon and actor Nick Cannon attend the ADCOLOR Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on September 21, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for AdColor)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27: TV personality Don Lemon attends Trevor Live: An Evening Benefiting the Trevor Project at Capitale on June 27, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Fox News commentator Sean Hannity was among those who reached out to share their condolences, Lemon said.

“There’s so much conflict happening. I think it’s important for all Americans to know it tends to bring the best out of people. Even some of my competitors and people I have raging arguments with on television,” Lemon said. “You think we hate each other, but we don’t.”

He said Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu sent good wishes.

Lemon named fellow CNN broadcasters Chris Cuomo, Jon Berman and Anderson Cooper, nothing that he too had lost a sibling. Cooper’s brother Carter took his own life in 1988.

He continued even as his voice cracked from emotion. He thanked CNN President Jeff Zucker for refusing to leave his side as he rushed to Louisiana.

“You don’t know how much this meant to me, Jeff Zucker. I will never forget that you wouldn’t leave my office. You wouldn’t go home until I got home and on a plane,” Lemon cried.

And finally, Lemon acknowledged boyfriend Tim Malone.

“Tim, the love of my life, who got on a plane without asking and sat in my mom’s driveway for two hours.”

“I love you,” Lemon said, before reading the news.

See photos of Don Lemon and his boyfriend:

11 PHOTOS
Don Lemon and boyfriend Tim Malone together
See Gallery
Don Lemon and boyfriend Tim Malone together
#Emmys
Tim Malone and CNN anchor and presenter Don Lemon attend the 28th Annual GLAAD Media Awards on May 6, 2017 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ (Photo credit should read EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 06: Tim Malone (L) and Don Lemon attends the 28th Annual GLAAD Awards at New York Hilton Midtown on May 6, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)
Right now we are all Texans. #Texas #hurricaneharvey #texasstrong
Captain Cuomo. 🐟 🚤⚓️
Midsummer soirée. #familyvacation
TheSign @thebigtent. Celebrating & restoring @sagharborcinema. #sagharbor
Summer lovin..
Party like it's 1999. #90sparty #90s
Beach bums🏄🏼 😎🏄🏾
Twinning Tuesday 🐳 #sunday #boating
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story

Sign up for Entertainment Insider by AOL to get the hottest pop culture news delivered straight to your inbox!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.