After two weeks of ignoring the issue and then going on vacation, Chris Cuomo addressed the role he played in his brother’s sexual harassment scandal when he returned to CNN last night. Unfortunately, his comments amounted to little more than whitewashing, self-contradictory nonsense, and Clintonesque word games. Chris Cuomo simultaneously claimed that he is not an adviser and that he advised his brother. He said that he kept his promise in May that his advice sessions would not happen again … and that they happened again. And he’s decided this tissue of self-serving lies will serve as his “final word” on the matter.
Chris Cuomo belatedly addressed the burning issue during the last segment of Monday’s “Cuomo Prime Time.” He began, in typical Cuomo style, by making the story about himself. “I appreciate the concern and the support,” he said. “My brother, as you know, resigned as governor of New York, and will be stepping down next week.”
“There are a lot of people feeling a lot of hurt and a lot of pain right now,” he said — about his brother’s resignation, not the governor’s years of (alleged) sexual harassment, not to mention the countless nursing home residents killed by his COVID-19 order. “My hope is that, ultimately, everyone involved can get to a better place and that some higher good will be served in all this.”
After detailing The Passion of Andrew Cuomo and offering it up for his holy brother’s intentions, brother Chris began spinning madly. It’s worth examining his claims in detail.
Cuomo’s claim: Chris Cuomo said his comedy routine interviews with his brother, Governor Andrew Cuomo, ended before the first hint of scandal: “I said last year that his appearances on this show would be short-lived, and they were. The last was over a year ago, long before any kind of scandal.”
The reality: The Daily Wire reported on Andrew Cuomo’s scandalous handling of COVID-19 patients in nursing homes last April, and it came up during a CNN interview with Andrew Cuomo — conducted by Chris Cuomo. “Nursing homes, people died there. They didn’t have to. It was mismanaged. And the operators have been given immunity. What do you have to say about that?” asked Chris Cuomo perfunctorily during the brothers’ final interview on June 24, 2020. Chris ended that line of questioning by saying, “In terms of what we need to do going forward [to combat COVID-19], you’ve made a good case of what works in New York.” He concluded by giving his brother a pep talk: “I think you’re the best politician in the country,” and “I hope you feel good about what you did for your people.”
Cuomo’s claim: Cuomo said he did not cross any ethical lines, because “I know what matters, at work and at home. … I never covered my brother’s troubles, because I obviously have a conflict. And there are rules at CNN about that. … I never influenced or attempted to control CNN’s coverage of my family.”
The reality: As noted, Chris Cuomo covered his brother’s “troubles” concerning nursing homes. Whether he tried to “control” CNN’s coverage of his brother’s sexual harassment scandal, he clearly influenced it — because he wrote the words that every news outlet reported. It’s apparent from Exhibit 70 of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ report that Chris Cuomo drafted all or part of what became the “Comment from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo” about the issue on February 28. Chris’ words were widely quoted by the media, including CNN. It may well be true, though, that Cuomo did not violate CNN’s journalistic ethics — because the network apparently doesn’t have clear guidelines.
Cuomo’s claim: “Back in May, when I was told to no longer communicate with my brother’s aides, in group meetings, I acknowledged it was a mistake. I apologize to my colleagues. And I stopped. And I meant it. … I’m not an adviser. I’m a brother. I wasn’t in control of anything. I was there to listen and offer my take.” His next sentence discussed the content of “my advice to my brother.”
The reality: Chris Cuomo is playing Clintonesque word games. An adviser is literally someone who offers advice, whether formally or informally. Advisers to any politician will tell you they are not “in control of anything,” either. But AG James’ report noted that Cuomo formed part of “the [g]overnor’s select group of outside confidantes.” Cutting through his statement, Cuomo advised his brother; he was caught in May; he and CNN jointly said that it would end; and he continued to advise his brother, anyway.
Cuomo’s claim: “My advice to my brother was simple and consistent. ‘Own what you did. Tell people what you’ll do to be better. Be contrite. And finally, accept that it doesn’t matter what you intended. What matters is how your actions and words were perceived.’”
The reality: That’s not what Chris Cuomo told his brother, according to multiple sources spread over several months. In May, The Washington Post quoted “four people familiar with the discussions” who said:
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.
As noted, Cuomo had some role in drafting or reviewing his brother’s press statement, which is not particularly contrite and which begins, “I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm.” (Emphasis added.) And AG James’ report stated that Cuomo and other confidantes “looked to protect the [g]overnor and found ways not to believe or credit those who stepped forward to make or support allegations against him.”
Cuomo’s claim: “As you know, back in May, when I was told to no longer communicate with my brother’s aides, in group meetings, I acknowledged it was a mistake. I apologize to my colleagues. And I stopped. And I meant it.”
The reality: This is a clever legal stratagem by Chris Cuomo and his network. In May, CNN issued an official statement saying, “[I]t 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.” And on May 20, Chris Cuomo said, “being looped into calls with other friends of his, and advisers that did include some of his staff, I understand why that was a problem for CNN.”
So, Cuomo and CNN issued cleverly worded statements that sounded like they were ending all Cuomo-to-Cuomo political advice. But they actually appeared to only promise that their top-rated anchor would cut out the middle man and advise his brother directly.
But the problem isn’t that the governor’s advisers were involved. It’s that Chris Cuomo is deeply entangled in the biggest political scandal of 2021 in a way that violates every shred of journalistic ethical guidelines; that he wrote at least one press statement reported by his own network; that he seemed to tell his viewers that such advice would end using technically true but misleading legal language; that after that assurance, he continued to engage in ethically dubious behavior; and that he apparently lied to his viewers about the content of the advice he gave in an attempt to help his brother, regardless of his guilt or innocence. Now, he’s washed his hands clean of it. He put a two-week buffer between himself and his scandal, then concluded his factually and morally challenged statement by saying, “This will be my final word on it.”
It should be his final word on the network. His continued employment at the network would mean that CNN has as much contempt for its viewers as it has for the institution of journalism.
Ben Johnson (@therightswriter) is the Media Reporter at The Daily Wire. He previously worked at the Acton Institute, FrontPage Magazine, and LifeSiteNews. He’s the author of three books, including Party of Defeat (2008, with David Horowitz).
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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