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“I have a lead on the wedding girl,” someone wrote in a text message.
After reading that, you’d probably surmise that the author of the text is some kind of investigative journalist working tirelessly to unearth a crime. Or perhaps he’s a mobster from the 1990s tracking down a snitch. But no, a self-proclaimed journalist sent that text after he used the investigative resources at his disposal to help his brother, the governor of New York, make a potential criminal scandal go away. And this text message may now have cost this journalist his job.
As you probably know by this point, that governor of New York is Andrew Cuomo, and the journalist, as he calls himself, who sent the text is his younger brother, Chris Cuomo of CNN.
On Monday, New York Attorney General Letitia James released documents that revealed the extent to which Chris Cuomo blurred the line between brother and news anchor to aid Andrew Cuomo, who was facing widespread sexual harassment allegations. Unbeknownst to CNN, Cuomo used his media connections to seek information about brother Andrew’s accusers, which many see as an abuse of journalistic powers.
CNN suspended Cuomo indefinitely on Tuesday night.
Initially, Cuomo claimed he had only “listened” and “offered advice” to his brother and his aides regarding the sexual harassment situation. At the time, CNN called such actions “irresponsible,” but opted not to punish him. CNN had ultimately calculated that Cuomo’s upside — he was the network’s leading ratings-getter in 2020 — still offset the distractions. In August, I defended CNN’s decision.
Yet now that we have new information regarding the extent of Chris Cuomo’s involvement in the scandal and the fact that his viewership has hit an all-time low, it’s hard to imagine CNN drawing the same conclusion this time.
Cuomo claimed that, in seeking damnable information about the women who had accused Gov. Andrew of sexual harassment, he’d acted as a brother, not an anchor. And while such behavior is inappropriate for someone in his profession, demonstrating family loyalty is not vile or appalling. That’s not the problem.
The problem is that Cuomo acted as both a brother and a primetime anchor to protect Andrew. Cuomo used the power and resources that come by virtue of working for CNN to dig up dirt on his brother’s accusers, an action that now reflects on CNN as a corporation.
In a rare moment of solidarity, media outlets on both sides of the political aisle have called for CNN to part ways with Cuomo. It took a cable news host to unite sworn enemies.
The Atlantic, a CNN supporter, has demanded that the network take action. “Chris Cuomo Must Go,” its headline reads.
Meghan McCain has put pressure on CNN president Jeff Zucker. “If CNN president Jeff Zucker won’t fire Chris Cuomo for lying about how he targeted his sex pest brother’s accusers, then HE should be the one under investigation,” wrote McCain.
Similar headlines are still flowing in, warning CNN executives that they’ll become the story if they don’t act accordingly. CNN ace Jake Tapper has also put the burden on Zucker to act swiftly, according to reports.
Meanwhile, if there’s anyone inside CNN fighting for Chris Cuomo, odds are, it’s not Cuomo himself. His recent behavior suggests that he knew the AG would release these documents and that he’d already checked out at CNN.
For example, on his SiriusXM radio show, Cuomo uncharacteristically lashed out at “woke folks,” a group with which he usually aligns, and their stance on Thanksgiving.
“(Thanksgiving) is my jam,” Cuomo said. “And now you woke folks trying to kill it for me.
“Listen, man, you know, don’t come up at me with all this pilgrim stuff. I don’t give a damn about the pilgrims and the indigenous people, the Native Americans, the Indians, wherever, whatever, whatever group of them wants to be called. I don’t care about any of that.”
Walking into CNN headquarters after admitting you don’t give a damn about indigenous people, huh?
Then on Tuesday, former CNN producer Steve Krakauer pointed out that Cuomo has also recently attacked the media for the ongoing COVID hysteria:
Now that we know Cuomo has been suspended indefinitely, last night’s show open does seem like the kind of segment he’d do if he knew it might be his last night on the air. (For what it’s worth, I think he was right in his analysis.) https://t.co/kfQt1KjCDX
— Steve Krakauer (@SteveKrak) November 30, 2021
Then, on Wednesday, Cuomo finally addressed his brother’s resignation for the first time since it happened back in August:
“[Andrew] had the Republicans hating him and the media never really liked him. So that is too much. And that is why he had to resign. I did not want him to resign in the beginning because I believed him. But eventually, when there wasn’t going to be due process, and his party was against him, and obviously the Republicans weren’t going to help him, then he had no choice because he couldn’t do the work of the state anymore.”
Add all this up, and it’s hard to conclude that Cuomo has a long-term future at CNN — or any future there at all. CNN has a list of people who could maintain his primetime average of around 750,000 viewers at 9 pm ET. Such people include Jim Acosta; Michael Smerconish, Cuomo’s regular fill-in; and Laura Coates, who guest anchors in place of Don Lemon.
Meanwhile, Cuomo has a large enough following to enter the direct-to-consumer fray, a direction in which most television hosts will eventually head anyway. Or he could increase his profile with SiriusXM, a platform better fit for his bombastic style.
Though Cuomo re-signed with CNN last year, the hazy terms of his contract could factor into the decision regarding his future at the network. If the contract prevents CNN from sufficiently cutting Cuomo’s salary, Cuomo himself, who likely sees the writing on the wall, could expedite his exit with an agreed-upon buyout — an outcome that would benefit both parties.
Chris Cuomo advised his brother, Andrew, to resign as governor of New York in August because, to use his words, “the time had come.” Cuomo knew his brother’s political status had diminished severely and was virtually ineffectual. Now, a few months later, Chris Cuomo and his time with CNN look eerily similar.