CNN has a Kathy Griffin problem, despite only paying her for one day each year.
The problem, of course, is the 56-year-old comedienne hosting its New Year's Eve special from Times Square, which has been successful from a ratings and virality standpoint for the network since Griffin was paired with anchor Anderson Cooper 10 years ago.  
Ah, ratings and virality, the two sweetest words to many executives in broadcast journalism. Because not only did people watch the original airing, but thanks to the power of retweets and Facebook and YouTube views, the content also has legs and reaches millions who otherwise would not have seen it.
And that's likely why CNN is hedging on what otherwise should have been its easiest big decision to make this year:
“We found what she did disgusting and offensive,” CNN said in a statement on Tuesday. Good start. The sentiment reflected what everyone from Chelsea Clinton to Keith Olbermann to Mitt Romney to President Trump to anyone sane thinks. But it was also similar to that of CNN's two biggest assets, Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper:
But here's where the network falls disappointingly short in applying actions to words. 
“We are pleased to see she has apologized and asked that the photos be taken down," the statement continues. 
"We are evaluating our New Year’s Eve coverage and have made no decisions at this point."
On a number of occasions this year, the media has gotten caught up in the moment. This is not one of those times. 
CNN appears to be saying that it will allow things to cool down before ending a decade-long annual relationship with Griffin. But here's the problem: If the network decides in November or December to go ahead with Griffin, social media has changed the whole ballgame. Everyone has a megaphone now, including obviously a president who has used the bully pulpit primarily via his thumbs in an attempt to circumvent the media in getting a message out. If CNN announces that Griffin will be back as co-host a few weeks before 2017 becomes 2018, it is certain social media will create a PR nightmare for not only the network, but for its advertisers as well. 
There's also a few other items to consider during said evaluation:
What would it do to Anderson Cooper? He is the lead anchor and arguably the face of the network. Griffin's provocative nature during the New Year's Eve Special once could simply be excused as a fun night out in the biggest party on the planet, and therefore something not to be taken seriously. All good. 
But that image of Griffin holding up a bloodied, decapitated Trump is the type of thing that becomes the primary optic etched in the minds of many that doesn't go away. Ever.
In an ironic way, Griffin is now in 2017 what former CNNer Donna Brazile was in 2016 in this way: When you hear or see the name Donna Brazile, what's the first thing that comes to mind? For most of you, it's likely passing along Town Hall debate questions to the Clinton campaign while she was with CNN, correct? 
The same will apply to Griffin, who called herself D-list for a reason. She'll now forever be known as the person utterly stupid or blindly partisan enough to agree to that photo shoot, which she had plenty of time to think about before the photographer starting snapping. 
Some will argue that since Griffin apologized, she deserves a second chance. But it was noticeable that Griffin didn't apologize at first, instead retorting with the kind of pious defiance we expect from public figures these days: 

"I caption this 'there was blood coming out of his eyes, blood coming out of his ... wherever,'" she initially tweeted, referring to Trump's campaign trail comments after a debate co-moderated by then-Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. A subsequent tweet argued she was just "mocking the mocker in chief."
"Remorse" via her video apology only seemed to come after — and this is just an educated guess — her ability to earn was tangibly threatened. 
But here's the thing about apologies: It tends to help to apologize to the person whose decapitated head originally being held in the photo in question in the form of Trump and his family. 
Griffin noticeably doesn't do that. 
CNN has an easy decision to make. The network is holding its cards for now instead of sending the right message that photos mimicking ISIS holding up a severed president's head is not acceptable ...
... even for those only paid to appear on the network once a year.
Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) is a media reporter for The Hill.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.