The Washington Post reported that CNN’s Chris Cuomo advised his brother, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and the governor’s senior staff on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations from several women earlier this year. The Post said the report comes after four people familiar with the discussions revealed Chris Cuomo’s involvement:
The calls occurred earlier this year, when a growing number of claims that Andrew Cuomo made inappropriate comments or touched women without their permission had escalated into a political crisis for the three-term governor.
The cable news anchor encouraged his brother to take a defiant position and not to resign from the governor’s office, the people said. At one point, he used the phrase “cancel culture” as a reason to hold firm in the face of the allegations, two people present on one call said.
The behind-the-scenes strategy offered by Chris Cuomo, who anchors CNN’s 9 p.m. nightly newscast, cuts against the widely accepted norm in journalism that those reporting the news should not be involved in politics.
Nicholas Lemann, a professor at Columbia Journalism School and a New Yorker staff writer, took issue with the ethics behind Chris’ involvement. “If you are actively advising a politician in trouble while being an on-air host on a news network, that’s not okay,” Lemann says.
CNN acknowledged that Chris Cuomo took part in the strategy sessions and admitted that it was a mistake.
“Chris has not been involved in CNN’s extensive coverage of the allegations against Governor Cuomo — on air or behind the scenes,” CNN said in a statement to the Washington Post. “In part because, as he has said on his show, he could never be objective. But also because he often serves as a sounding board for his brother.
“However, it was inappropriate to engage in conversations that included members of the Governor’s staff, which Chris acknowledges. He will not participate in such conversations going forward.”
CNN says Chris Cuomo will not be disciplined.
This is incredibly damning for CNN. CNN has defended the anchor over and over again, noting that Chris has a ban that prohibits him from covering his brother. Fine, but an exception was made last year when Andrew Cuomo guested on his brother’s show a bevy of times. The New York governor’s popularity then grew, as his TV anchor brother humanized him on TV, an advantage few politicians have. Then once the story went south, sexual harassment allegations began to surface and a deadly nursing home cover-up was exposed, CNN announced they had reinstated the ban.
Bizarrely, Chris Cuomo even opened a show in March to say he wouldn’t cover his brother, but that he is aware of the growing number of sexual harassment allegations leveled against him. The CNN anchor did not disclose that he had been advising his brother on the matter. Instead, he merely said he saw the news.
What a mess.