Anchors’ Drunken On-Air New Year’s Antics Subject of CNN Town Hall, Sobriety Now Encouraged

Don't fear though: Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper will still be able to get tipsy while reporting live from Times Square. But they're the only ones.
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 31:  Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper host CNN's New Year's Eve coverage at Times Square on December 31, 2017 in New York City.  (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

Pour one out for CNN’s anchors, who will not be pouring one out this New Year’s Eve. The Warner Bros. Discovery-owned cable news channel is asking correspondents and anchors to remain (mostly) sober for the holiday.

As reported by Variety, CNN CEO Chris Licht reportedly told staffers at a Tuesday town hall that he wanted on-camera talent to refrain from drinking during the channel’s annual New Year’s Eve coverage. Licht, who took the position of CEO this May, reportedly wants his first New Year’s Eve at the network to be a teetotal affair due to fears that on-screen drinking damaged the “respectability” of CNN as a news source.

Each year, CNN devotes considerable airspace to documenting New Year’s Eve celebrations throughout the country, primarily those in New York City like the famous Times Square ball drop, as well as in Nashville and New Orleans. Recently, the channel’s coverage has generated considerable headlines and social media buzz for the looser restrictions on anchors and correspondents working during the night, who have been allowed to drink on the job. This has led to some memorably chaotic segments from usually buttoned-up CNN talent like new CNN This Morning host Don Lemon, who has led NYE coverage past the 12:30 mark. In 2016, Lemon got his ear pierced on camera while reporting at a bar. Last year, he went on a rant against his “haters,” telling them that “You can kiss my behind, I do not care. I don’t care” while reporting with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota and comedian Dulce Sloan.

Two people who are seemingly exempt from this new CNN prohibition are Anderson Cooper and Bravo’s Andy Cohen, who since 2018, have co-hosted CNN’s coverage live from Times Square. Cooper has held the position as Times Square host since 2002, while Cohen, Cooper’s close friend, has joined him since 2018. While Cooper has generally stayed relatively sober during the coverage, Cohen has been far tipsier, leading to memorable moments like last year, where he went on a rant against Bill de Blasio, who he called the “crappiest” mayor in New York City history, and threw a dig at Ryan Seacrest, who hosts ABC’s competing “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” Cohen latter apologized for his insult towards Seacrest, though he stood by his comments about Blasio.

As hosts of the coverage, rather than reporters, Cooper and Cohen will apparently be free to drink on air as usual while reporting from Times Square. That said, CNN has not yet announced coverage plans for New Year’s Eve, so it’s unclear what talent will be reporting during the night, and who will need to abstain from the bottle for the holiday.

CNN did not respond to IndieWire’s requests for comment.

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