CNN anchor Don Lemon downed a shot of tequila, opened up about his personal life, had his ear pierced and his microphone cut off during a bizarre New Year’s Eve performance that had media experts wondering why the network would have one of their marquee anchors getting sauced on live television.

“Is that really what we want to be doing in front of the world? Is this any way to act when you’re invited into people’s houses?” asked Al Tompkins, senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute. “It just seems like there are so many better ways to spend the potential closing hours of a year.”

A visibly buzzed Lemon, 50, spent New Year’s Eve reporting live from a New Orleans bar alongside fellow CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin. He started knocking back shots a few hours before midnight — and at one point had his ear pierced on live television after throwing back a shot of tequila.

“If this hurts I’m going to be so mad,” Lemon said, telling the tattoo artist doing the piercing not to get blood on his jacket, which he said had to go back to Brooks Brothers. Comedian Kathy Griffin, who was on the air with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, even suggested Lemon get his nipple pierced, which he appeared to briefly consider before being talked out of it by both Cooper and Baldwin.

Footage of the unusual on-air exchange, which led to Lemon discussing the need for a better work/life balance, saying he would be open to a relationship in 2017, and blurting out “2016 was awful” before his mic appeared to be cut off, had Tompkins scratching his head.

“There is so much more you can do with the airtime and the extraordinary capacity of a global audience than being in New Orleans and drinking,” Tompkins said. “When I say, ‘I don’t understand it,’ I mean I really, truly don’t understand it … It hurts to see a really fine network having its airwaves being used like that.”

Emerson College communications professor David Gerzof Richard said he suspected Lemon was letting off some steam following a year when now-President-elect Donald Trump blasted him on Twitter as a “lightweight” and “dumb as a rock.”

“This is probably a pretty tough year for news reporting if you are covering the election and whatnot,” Richard said. “I can imagine letting loose a little bit, in his mind this might have been called for,” Richard said.

Salem State University communications professor Rob Brown agreed, saying it appeared the network was allowing Lemon to “take a breather” after covering an “exhausting” presidential campaign.

“Sometimes the people who come into our living room so frequently come to a point where they open up and become more human,” he said.

And as #DrunkDonLemon took over social media and Lemon’s intoxicating performance garnered more attention for CNN, Richard said having one of their anchors drinking on the air may not have been the best idea for their New Year’s Eve coverage.

“A general rule of thumb I tell my clients, ‘Don’t drink and tweet,’ ” he said. “I’d also add, ‘Don’t drink and broadcast live.’ ”


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