CNN is cutting back on the drinking on its New Year’s Eve broadcast for its sober new era, and some of its on-air personalities aren’t happy.
CNN’s widely-viewed U.S. New Year’s Eve program has in recent years regularly strayed into tipsy, sloppy hilarity. CNN This Morning host Don Lemon got his ear pierced in a bar in New Orleans, and last year Bravo’s Andy Cohen went on a series of rants complaining about former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
But CNN President Chris Licht has chosen to take ratings hits in order to reposition the network to audiences as more serious. This year, Licht said in one internal meeting that Cooper and Cohen will be permitted to imbibe, prompting Cooper to tell network leadership he’s concerned at the perception that only the two white hosts are permitted to drink.
Licht then walked that rule back: “Chris made an offhand remark in a town hall about drinking during the NYE program,” an aide said. “Shortly after, he proactively reached out to Anderson to clarify that his comments were meant as a joke and that he preferred no drinking on air at all.”
In any event Lemon, who will likely be dispatched to hard-partying New Orleans, was not pleased about the sober state of things, another CNN insider said.
Not everyone is planning on letting the new regime spoil the fun. On his show after the news was announced, Andy Cohen said that since the correspondents will not be drinking this year, he “will be partying even harder on their behalf.“
I asked Licht about the change at a recent holiday party, where he maintained that it was important for the network’s anchors to be perceived as credible on air, not sloppy. He added that he will be in the control room New Years Eve, and will have a celebratory drink.