CNN is cracking down on its anchors boozing on its “New Year’s Eve Live” show.
During a company town hall, CNN chairman and CEO Chris Licht informed staff that he would put a stop to much of the drinking that has usually been a hallmark of CNN’s New Year’s Eve programming. Hosts like Anderson Cooper will be allowed to keep drinking, but anchors and correspondents like Don Lemon will be prohibited from drinking during the broadcast. Variety broke the news Wednesday.
This year will be the first New Year’s Eve show overseen by Licht since he took over the network in February. During the meeting, Licht reportedly told staffers that drinking on-air eroded the presenters’ credibility and “respectability.”
CNN flagship anchor Anderson Cooper has hosted the program since 2002. Cooper’s friend, radio and TV host Andy Cohen, joined the show in 2017, replacing comedienne Kathy Griffin. Lemon and other hosts often broadcast from other locations around the country. The program has been known for the antics the hosts get into. Notable instances include: Griffin completely encasing Cooper in tin foil to celebrate 10 years hosting the show together; Lemon having his ear pierced live on air; reporter Randi Kaye following a group of pot smokers on a “Puff, Pass, and Paint party” while riding on a bus; and CNN reporter Bill Weir getting a tattoo on air.
Last year, the broadcast drew significant controversy when Lemon and Cohen both went on alcohol-fueled rants while on air. First, Lemon ranted to fellow host Alisyn Camerota and comedian Dulce Sloan about criticism he receives. “I don’t give a — what you think about me, what do you think about that?” Lemon said. “I’m a grown-a** man. I don’t care what you think about me.”
“I am who I am,” Lemon continued. “I’m a grown, successful black man who a lot of people hate because they’re not used to people seeing me — and people like me — in the position that I am. To be able to share what I … my point of view on television, it freaks people out. And you know what? You can kiss my behind. I do not care. I don’t care. I really don’t care. I have one life, and this is who I am, and I feel very, um … blessed and honored to be in this position to be able to do this. So all the hate I get? It’s motivation to me. Bring it. I don’t care.”
Then Cohen fired a shot at ABC’s annual New Year’s Eve program, which could be seen from the CNN broadcast. “If you look behind me, you’ll see Ryan Seacrest’s group of losers performing,” Cohen said. “I’m sorry, but if you’re watching ABC, you’re watching nothing.”
The decision was met with some consternation on Twitter, where users pointed out that the anchors’ drunken antics was the only reason they tuned in to begin with.
“Watching news anchors get drunk on CNN is literally the highlight of New Year’s Eve,” wrote one Twitter user. “Don’t take that joy away!!”
“CNN to Cut Back on New Year’s Eve viewership,” another user joked.
“Drunk Don Lemon and geeked up Anderson Cooper is some of the best part of the CNN New Year show,” added another.
“Why would anybody even bother watching #CNNNYE if not for hosts being drunk on camera?” another user said.
“The only reason I watch CNN on New Year’s Eve is to see all of the news anchors get smashed,” another chimed in. “Nothing says NYE to me like Anderson Cooper’s drunk laugh and Don Lemon shaking his a**. @CNN BIG mistake-HUGE. You are ratings are going to tank that night. #NewYearsEve.”