As the New York Attorney General’s office accuses Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexually harassing 11 women, CNN finds itself mired in an ethical quagmire, as the report states the network’s most popular host enabled the governor’s behavior and did not “believe all women.”
CNN’s Chris Cuomo received “confidential and often privileged information” about some of the women charging his brother with sexual harassment, “looked to protect” the governor, and “found ways not to believe” his accusers, according to a report from Attorney General Letitia James.
The AG’s report also reproduces a text message from one of the governor’s alleged victims complaining about CNN’s pro-Cuomo coverage.
In May, The Washington Post broke the news that the host of “Cuomo Prime Time” advised his older brother how to handle the burgeoning cases of sexual impropriety. At the time, the network said his behavior was inappropriate but would not happen again.
Chris Cuomo and many others who devised the governor’s crisis response strategy “were not State employees at all,” the AG report states. “None of them was officially retained in any capacity by the Executive Chamber or any of the individuals involved.”
“Nonetheless, they were regularly provided with confidential and often privileged information about state operations and helped make decisions that impacted State business and employees — all without any formal role, duty, or obligation to the State,” the report says.
The report goes on to note how Andrew Cuomo “actively engaged in an effort to discredit her, including by disseminating to the press confidential internal documents that painted her in a negative light.”
But the governor’s “advisors, including [Global Strategy Group founder Jeffrey] Pollock and Chris Cuomo, counseled him to express contrition after the press published Ms. [Charlotte] Bennett’s allegations,” at least in public, it states.
The report, released on Tuesday, also appears to confirm that Chris Cuomo drafted all or part of his brother’s official statement on the allegations.
Exhibit 70 of the report’s second appendix includes the text of an email written by Chris Cuomo at 3:13 p.m. on February 28. Below his name is the text of what became the “Comment from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.” It was posted on the governor’s website two-and-a-half hours later, at 5:45 p.m. Yet Governor Cuomo has appeared increasingly defiant about the allegations. “I do it with everyone,” he said Tuesday afternoon, arguing the advances are “meant to convey warmth.”
Chris Cuomo ultimately helped his brother evade accountability and enabled him to continue his pattern of harassment, the report states. “[T]he Executive Chamber (and the Governor’s select group of outside confidantes) looked to protect the Governor and found ways not to believe or credit those who stepped forward to make or support allegations against him,” it says.
The report also notes that one of Cuomo’s victims felt distress watching CNN’s positive portrayals of the New York Democrat, who was briefly touted as a late entrant to the 2020 presidential primaries.
Anna Ruch, who has said the governor made unwanted advances at a wedding, received a text message with a picture of Governor Cuomo pinching a young girl’s cheeks on September 16, 2019.
“This f**king guy,” the text said.
Anna replied that she had just seen adulatory coverage of Cuomo on CNN. “Walked in to work and CNN was talking about his e cigarette ban. ALSO if you google Cuomo harassment it’s all praising some workplace harassment policy he put in place,” Ruch wrote. “I wish I’d said or tried to do something.”
Thus far, CNN’s news coverage seems to downplay the blockbuster nature of the AG report’s exposé. “New York attorney general’s report on Gov. Cuomo is civil, not criminal,” CNN’s Melanie Schuman reported. “In the report, the investigators repeatedly described Cuomo’s conduct as ‘unlawful.’ A footnote in the report, however, said that the report was not reaching a conclusion as to ‘whether the conduct amounts to or should be the subject of criminal prosecution.’” On the other hand, an analysis from Chris Cillizza concludes that the report “will almost certainly will end Andrew Cuomo’s political career.”
CNN’s online story about the bombshell AG report does not contain any reference to Chris Cuomo.
“CNN had no immediate comment on Tuesday,” according to The New York Times, which called the fact that the host “offered political advice to his brother, a clear breach of traditional ethical barriers between journalists and lawmakers.”
But it is untenable for CNN’ to maintain silence. The network officially banned Chris Cuomo from covering his brother from 2013 until the spring of 2020. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cuomo brothers joked about family curfews and bantered about their childhood. But as investigators charged Cuomo with covering up the number of COVID-19 deaths in the state’s nursing homes, CNN reinstated the ban. And network executives took no action when it became clear that Chris Cuomo advised his brother.
The U.S. government is also investigating whether Chris Cuomo received preferential access to rapid COVID-19 tests at the height of the pandemic, when supplies stretched thin. At the time, CNN wrote off the host’s exploitation of his family connections, arguing that he behaved as “any human being would.”
Now that it has been revealed Chris Cuomo received confidential information and attempted to shield his brother from accountability for a pattern of sexual impropriety in office, how can it justify its lackluster approach?
CNN has always justified its (non-)response to Cuomo by saying that he neither covered his brother’s peccadillos nor openly lobbied his colleagues about their coverage. But can CNN really say that Chris Cuomo didn’t shape media coverage now that the state attorney general has confirmed that he apparently wrote the text of a press release designed to be consumed and reported by the media? How can CNN justify its hands-off response? And do executives realize they wouldn’t have to if they had taken action after any of the numerous scandals that preceded their entirely foreseeable successor?
CNN is in a deep moral quagmire of its own making.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.