THE NATION’S first sardine cannery opened in Eastport, Maine, in 1875, a historical distinction the island town commemorates with what has become a New Year’s Eve tradition: At the stroke of midnight, an 8-foot sculpture of a sardine is lowered from the top of the local art museum, and townspeople line up to kiss the painted wood-and-canvas fish for good luck in the year ahead.
It’s a light-hearted, quirky event, and Eastport residents were plainly happy to share it with CNN correspondent Gary Tuchman, who was on hand to cover the Great Sardine Drop as part of the cable giant’s live New Year’s Eve programming.
Unfortunately for the good people of Eastport and for viewers nationwide, CNN made the mistake of inviting entertainer Kathy Griffin to join Anderson Cooper in hosting its New Year’s Eve broadcast from Times Square. A comic known for her willingness to push boundaries — her own website describes her as “our foul-mouthed comedian” — Griffin decided to turn Eastport’s tradition into an excuse for some nationally televised raunchiness.
As revelers in Eastport were shown kissing the town’s wooden sardine, Griffin, on split-screen, bent over and simulated kissing the front of Cooper’s pants. “I was kissing your sardine,” she smirked, as a clearly embarrassed Cooper tried to get her to stop. “I can do this all night long.” Rather than instantly going to a commercial break, CNN inexplicably allowed Griffin’s antics to continue, as Cooper looked increasingly mortified.
The incident made Griffin sound not zanily risque, but crassly self-serving. She quipped about needing material for an upcoming appearance on “The David Letterman Show.” And sure enough, there she later appeared, reveling in her New Year’s Eve antics.
From now on, CNN should know better than to hire a comedian who uses the network’s New Year’s Eve broadcast as a bawdy publicity stunt. In the meantime, the Eastport residents who expected a few moments of national exposure deserved better from CNN.