October 22, 2021

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The Law & Legal Community

This Chris Cuomo story isn’t going to go away for CNN

Nothing to see here.

I guess that’s going to be the approach taken by CNN’s Chris Cuomo when it comes to the news about his brother, Andrew — the New York governor who, according to an investigation by the New York attorney general, has sexually harassed multiple women with inappropriate touching and comments.

The blockbuster report came down this week, but you wouldn’t know it by watching Chris Cuomo’s prime-time show. Chris already said back in May that he was no longer going to discuss his brother on his show because of the obvious conflict of interest. And, yes, that’s ultimately the right move. Cuomo should stay out of this story.

But here’s the problem: It’s too late. He is already involved in this story.

The Washington Post reported back in May that Chris was a part of the team that helped Andrew strategize how to combat the allegations of harassment. The attorney general’s report also specifically mentions Chris.

Only hours after the attorney general’s report was announced, Cuomo hosted his “Cuomo Primetime” show and never mentioned his brother. Despite saying back in May that he wasn’t going to address his brother and sticking to that edict Tuesday and Wednesday night, it still felt awkward to not even acknowledge it one more time in light of the attorney general’s report.

On Wednesday, The New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum reported that, earlier this year, CNN executives floated an idea to Chris: if he wanted to formally advise his brother, he could take a temporary leave from the network. Grynbaum wrote, “The idea was informal and strictly optional — not a request — and intended as an acknowledgment of Mr. Cuomo’s unique position as both a prime-time network anchor and the brother of a prominent politician facing a scandal, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal conversations.”

According to Grynbaum, this idea was brought up after the Post broke the story that Chris was helping advise his brother.

But even by then, the damage was done.

In a column for MSNBC, Laura Bassett writes that not only should Andrew Cuomo resign but … “His brother, too, should resign from covering politics or be fired. It’s extremely inappropriate and unethical for a journalist to advise and craft the statements of a politician, regardless of family relation.”

She goes on to write, “New Yorkers deserve better than a lying, harassing, misogynistic creep presiding over the state. And CNN’s viewers deserve better than a news anchor who is working on behalf of a politician he covers and helps to manipulate public opinion of him. Both Cuomo brothers have amassed massive power and influence, while betraying public trust. And both brothers must go.”

I won’t go as far as to call for someone’s job, but CNN is in a bad spot here.

Other politicians and public figures will be accused of sexual harassment in the future. How will Chris handle that on his show?

Politicians that Chris talks about — Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and so forth — have called for Andrew to resign. Might that affect how Chris covers them? The fact that this is even a question is a problem for CNN.

In his “Reliable Sources” newsletter, CNN’s Brian Stelter wrote, “People listening to the CNN host’s lunchtime radio show on SiriusXM have heard his feelings about his brother in recent weeks. He has been steeling himself for the AG report, expecting that it would hit in early August. On the air, he has sounded protective of his brother at times; bitter about the political warfare at other times; and detached from it at other times. Overall, I’d say, he sounded realistic about life as a member of his famous political family.”

Columbia Journalism Review’s Jon Allsop wrote, “The big problem here, aside from basic fairness, is that when Chris got sick, he presented himself as something of a COVID everyman, and won lavish praise for doing so. Every man could not, of course, get a COVID test off his brother, the governor. Taken together, Chris’s testing access and harassment advice reveal a fundamental inconsistency in his show’s self-conception. He is, it seems, permitted to present himself as an average Joe who’s looking out for his family, and an opinionated motormouth, and an ‘objective’ journalist as it suits him. But when you’re related to a powerful politician, these various identities will have very different ramifications for the credibility of your coverage; you can’t simply shuffle between them and expect people to take you seriously.”

And that’s the issue. Chris Cuomo is forever going to have a credibility problem among some viewers. The only thing that could fix that is something that doesn’t exist: a time machine.

Interestingly enough, while Chris Cuomo has not discussed his brother at all this week, he has gone with pretty much wall-to-wall coverage of COVID-19 and his work has been outstanding. Take Wednesday night as he interviewed Admiral Brett Giroir, who was the coronavirus testing czar under Donald Trump, to talk about new COVID-19 statistics. He talked to CNN senior data reporter Harry Enten about how COVID-19 is impacting young people (ages 0 to 17). And he discussed COVID-19 and really young children with Dr. Allison Messina, a pediatrician from the infectious disease division at a children’s hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The interviews were thorough and informative, and made for a top-notch hour. And while it doesn’t completely erase the mess involving his brother, it does show how good he can be on important stories.

Protesters hold up signs outside the office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo demanding that Cuomo resign, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman)

So far, it appears that Andrew Cuomo’s strategy is going to be to fight and not resign even though many high-profile Democrats — including President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — are calling on him to leave office.

Here are so notable editorial pieces about Cuomo:

And a few other pieces of note regarding the Cuomo story:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appearing on Wednesday’s “CBS This Morning.” (Courtesy: CBS News)

“CBS This Morning” smartly brought New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio into the studio to talk about two of the bigger news stories at the moment: Gov. Cuomo and New York City’s decision to require proof of vaccination for indoor dining, gyms and entertainment.

About Cuomo, de Blasio said, “I absolutely believe he must resign for the good of New York State and our people. If he doesn’t, the clamor — which is universal at this point, Democrats and Republicans saying he’s got to go — is going to win the day. If he wants to wait for impeachment, he can, but it’s coming soon in our state legislature.”

About the vaccine mandate, de Blasio said, “I’m hoping what we’re doing with the restaurants, the movie theaters, the gyms, I’m hoping other mayors and governors will pick this up. Business leaders are telling me they like seeing government take the lead. It helps the private sector go farther. I’m urging all my fellow leaders around the country — Joe Biden said yesterday, yeah, this is the kind of thing people should do. This will just help everyone to get vaccinated, and that’s how we beat this Godforsaken delta variant. Don’t take it lightly. We’ve got to defeat it.”

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, right, being interviewed by Chuck Todd on Wednesday’s “MTP Daily” on MSNBC. (Courtesy: MSNBC)

Not enough Americans are getting vaccinated for COVID-19. That appears to be one of the issues for the rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in recent weeks. But, perhaps, part of the reason for vaccination hesitation is misinformation.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy appeared on Wednesday’s “MTP Daily” on MSNBC and told moderator Chuck Todd, “I don’t blame people for being confused or misinformed about the vaccine or about COVID because … there is a lot of misinformation out there circulating from sources that seem like they’re trustworthy, but they’re not. And it has misled people. And that has ultimately cost them their lives.”

Murthy then added, “It is very clear that one of the critical factors that has been driving the speed, scale and sophistication with which misinformation is spreading is technology and technology platforms.”

About those platforms, Murthy said they “have a moral responsibility to make sure that their platforms are not enabling the spread of misinformation and harming people’s health.”

Meanwhile, speaking of vaccination misinformation, check out this story by Michael Hardy in Texas Monthly: “‘I Don’t Believe Anything’: Among the Unvaccinated in One Central Texas Community.”

It’s both revealing and troubling.

The New York Times came out with its second-quarter report on Wednesday and, among the highlights, the Times has surpassed 8 million subscribers and hopes to get to 8.5 million by the end of the year. Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds writes, “Digital-only subscription growth continued at The New York Times in the second quarter, the company reported Wednesday, but at a considerably slower rate than in recent years.”

Edmonds also reports, “The site added 142,000 net subscribers compared to the first quarter of this year — 77,000 for its news report and the other 65,000 for its cooking, audio and games (formerly crosswords) sites. That’s less than a fourth of the quarterly number added during the peak of the Trump-bump years and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic a year ago. CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said total subscriptions, including print, passed the 8 million mark in the first weeks of this quarter and are headed to 8.5 million by the end of 2021.”

For more details, read Edmonds’ story.

Major changes are coming for Fox Business Network’s prime-time schedule. Starting Sept. 20, Fox Business will debut FBN Prime, a new multi-series lineup of primetime programming that the network says will celebrate “American industry and ingenuity.”

The lineup will feature various Fox News Media personalities such as Stuart Varney, Cheryl Casone, John Rich and Kacie McDonnell. The lineup also will include TV veteran Mike Rowe, known for his work on Discovery’s “Dirty Jobs.”

The new lineup means the show “Kennedy,” hosted by Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery, will move from prime time to 7 p.m. Eastern on Mondays through Thursdays. That will replace a rerun of Larry Kudlow’s 4 p.m. Eastern show. Friday’s prime-time lineup will have “Maria Bartiromo’s Wall Street,” “WSJ @ Large with Gerry Baker” and “Barron’s Roundtable.”

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at [email protected]

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