CNN host Chris Cuomo advised his brother, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), about how to respond to more than a half-dozen complaints of sexual harassment, according to an expose published Thursday afternoon in The Washington Post.
The younger Cuomo, who hosts CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time,” participated in multiple conference calls alongside a select group of lawyers, communications specialists, and at least one of Cuomo’s aides, the paper reported.
Four sources familiar with the calls told the newspaper that Chris Cuomo advised his brother on how to handle the political fallout produced by the allegations. Chris reportedly told his brother to refuse to resign and strike a defiant pose, claiming he was standing up against “cancel culture.”
The governor has said he will not step down from office and offered only the most formal of apologies to his accusers.
Both CNN and the governor’s office have downplayed Chris Cuomo’s role in counseling his brother how to handle crisis communications.
“The governor only trusts about five people, so that’s why Chris is on these calls,” an adviser to the governor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Post.
CNN’s statement implied it was aware of his role as an adviser to his brother’s emergency response strategy.
“Chris has not been involved in CNN’s extensive coverage of the allegations against Governor Cuomo — on air or behind the scenes. 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,” the network said in a statement to the newspaper.
“However, it was inappropriate to engage in conversations that included members of the Governor’s staff, which Chris acknowledges,” the statement continued. “He will not participate in such conversations going forward.”
“The network said Cuomo will not be disciplined,” the Post reported.
“The revelation that Cuomo had advised his brother vexed staffers inside CNN,” according to a story posted on CNN’s website late this afternoon. “Multiple CNN staffers said they were bothered by Cuomo’s conduct and the violation of traditional journalistic standards.”
CNN banned Chris from covering his brother from 2013 until the spring of 2020. As Andrew Cuomo received adulatory media coverage for his daily COVID-19 briefings, he and his younger brother engaged in interviews that bordered on a vaudeville act, joking about violating curfew and the size of the governor’s nose. CNN wrote off the segments by saying “the early months of the pandemic crisis were an extraordinary time.” The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple criticized the interviews during his own CNN interview, calling the on-air nepotism “a major black eye for CNN.”
In February, when sources inside the New York government accused Governor Cuomo of covering up his state’s COVID-19 death toll, CNN reinstated the ban. “Obviously, I am aware of what is going on with my brother,” Cuomo told his audience in March. “And obviously I cannot cover it, because he is my brother.”
The sexual harassment allegations largely pushed aside accusations of the governor’s deadly mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, especially in the state’s nursing homes.
In all, nine women have accused Governor Cuomo of varying levels of misconduct. One woman accused Cuomo of groping her breasts under her blouse inside the governor’s mansion in Albany. Three said that Cuomo kissed them against their will. Former aide Karen Hinton said the governor pulled her into a hug that was “too long, too tight, too intimate,” and during which he was aroused. Politico journalist Jessica Bakeman said Cuomo put his hands on her waist and back while holding her in an iron-clad grip. And former staffer Alyssa McGrath said the governor looked at her body and made comments that constituted sexual harassment.
Andrew Cuomo appeared to take his brother’s advice. In late February, Cuomo released a statement — on a Sunday afternoon — denying guilt but apologizing if anyone felt offended.
“I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable,” he said.
But he added, “I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”
“To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” he said.
Then, at a press conference last month, he savaged his accusers and questioned their motives.
“People are venial. People want attention. People are angry. People are jealous,” he said. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
The governor is currently the subject of four investigations, including two probes into the harassment accusations.
This is the second time CNN has whiffed on a scandal involving the Cuomo brothers.
The federal government is now investigating whether the governor gave his brother preferential access to rapid COVID-19 tests, which were then in high demand.
Chris Cuomo had discussed his coronavirus status extensively on the air, claiming he had walled himself off from the rest of the world. But he verbally jousted with a bicyclist who spotted him outside during his supposed sequestration.
In March, CNN released a statement saying their host simply exploited his connections the way “any human being would.”
“[I]t is not surprising that in the earliest days of a once-in-a-century global pandemic, when Chris was showing symptoms and was concerned about possible spread, he turned to anyone he could for advice and assistance, as any human being would,” CNN said.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.