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The self-inflicted debasing of Anderson Cooper (and his credibility)

CNN proudly presented the clown prince of American TV journalism making a spectacle of himself on New Year's Eve in midst of Kathy Griffin, MC Hammer and "Si" of Gangnam Style fame. Photo: Ed Bark

Conduct unbecoming of a news anchor has become virtually impossible to prove in the court of public opinion.

Lines have blurred to the point of obliteration at both the national and local level.

Time to insert a "But still." Because CNN's Anderson Cooper, the face of his network whenever a big story breaks, really has no business calling himself a serious journalist anymore.

For the sixth time on New Year's Eve, Cooper willingly shared a live platform in Times Square with comedian Kathy Griffin, whose mouth long has been a gaping exit wound. For starters, an international audience watched her tell him, "I'm gonna tickle your sack." This came after Cooper noted that some viewers were playing a drinking game in honor of "every time I giggle nervously."

He giggled continuously. And unfortunately, Cooper sounds a lot like Larry King when he does so. In other words, it's a pretty creepy giggle.

Griffin later ventured where no co-host has gone before after CNN reporter Gary Tuchman's live dispatch from Eastport, Maine. He told viewers about a longstanding New Year's Eve tradition in which denizens kiss a fake jumbo sardine after it's lowered from the top of a building as part of the countdown to midnight.

During the split-screen report, Griffin stooped to kiss Cooper's crotch area.

"Did you drop something?" he wondered.

"No," she said. "I was kissing your sardine." Furthermore, "I could do this all night long."

One could argue -- but not convincingly -- that Cooper has no control over what Griffin says or does. But he keeps putting himself in this position year after year with seemingly no regard as to how viewers might perceive him the next time he affixes a sober countenance to report from scenes of national tragedies or disasters.

Cooper's New Year's Eve dalliances with Griffin are akin to inviting Andrew Dice Clay to entertain at your seven-year-old's birthday party. And then wondering why he taught the kids how to drop f-bombs.

Even worse, Cooper invited Griffin back the next night for a live Jan. 1st segment on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360. That 's where the above "Anderson's and Kathy's Wild New Year's Eve" tagline came from. It also happened to be the night of the House's rather important "fiscal cliff" vote, in which Hurricane Sandy relief was left on the table. So leave it to Griffin to further soil the CNN "brand" with, "Now let me ask you this. 'Cause you're a newsman. Or you used to be."

Cooper of course giggled before Griffin asked him what impact the fiscal cliff vote would have on her Maserati.

Cooper's syndicated, oft-silly daytime talk show, Anderson Live, should have been enough of a carnival midway for him. It's being canceled after this season, though. One shouldn't forget that he's also the guy who hosted two cycles of the ABC "reality-competiton" series The Mole just before CNN brought him aboard in 2001. He's been quoted as saying, "I think the notion of a traditional anchor is fading away. The all-knowing, all-seeing person who speaks from on high."

Maybe so. And maybe all well and good to a point. But you still have to take the high ground when it comes to your image as a serious anchor-reporter. And there's simply no credible network anchor who would even think of subjecting himself to Kathy Griffin on multiple live New Year's Eve specials. Bad things happen -- which he should have known by now.

Cooper will continue to be the face of CNN. And his new boss, former NBC chieftain Jeff Zucker, might actually encourage him to get even wackier in the interests of drawing attention to the ratings-challenged network. After all, various youtube videos of Griffin smooching Cooper's crotch have already blasted well past 100,000 views. And CNN basically celebrated on Tuesday night by re-teaming them.

You might want to remember this the next time CNN also asks you to take Cooper seriously. Right now for me, that's no longer in the cards.

Instead I'd like to see Howard Kurtz question Cooper's New Year's Eve stint during a segment on CNN's Sunday morning Reliable Sources program. It would be a sure-fire topic if it were any other network's primary news anchor. Let's see what develops while you can see for yourself in the below video.