Jazz tucked this into his post earlier but it’s so egregious that it deserves its own thread.
CNN had two ethical options in deciding how to let Chris Cuomo handle news about Andrew. One: Zero tolerance, the correct choice. No interviews, period, in the belief that a politician’s sibling can’t be trusted to ask challenging questions that might plausibly damage his or her career. Two: Let Chris do soft-focus interviews with Andrew during the pandemic — but only on the condition that he also cover news that may arise later that’s less flattering to his brother. Chris has to take the bitter with the sweet. Or, if he can’t be objective about a family member (and he can’t, of course), he can invite a guest anchor onto his show for 10 minutes or whatever to cover the evening’s “Cuomo scandal deepens” news. I’m sure Anderson Cooper or Dana Bash or whoever would be happy to tape a segment about it earlier in the day for airing in the evening.
The one option available to the network that’s not ethical is letting Chris conduct pattycake interviews with Andrew when times are good and then blacking out Cuomo coverage during the 9 p.m. hour when they aren’t.
Naturally, that’s the option CNN has chosen.
>> @ChrisCuomo at the top of @CuomoPrimeTime tonight: "Obviously I am aware of what is going on with my brother. And obviously I cannot cover it because he is my brother. Now, of course CNN has to cover it. They have covered it extensively and they will continue to do so." pic.twitter.com/G49mZYTG4D
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) March 2, 2021
“’Obviously I can’t cover it because he is my brother’ would have been a pretty good rule from the beginning,” sniffed Rich Lowry afterward, a sentiment with which even liberal outlets agree. I had a laugh last night about how many Cuomo apologists on Twitter seemed to deliberately miss that point, insisting that it was proper for Chris not to cover his brother’s scandal. Why, he might be called to give testimony potentially, they said. Or he might be forced to criticize his sibling on the air, and no one wants to be in that position.
Right. That’s why you don’t cover your siblings, period. The conflict of interest is insurmountable and your personal relationship with them may end up making you part of the very story you’re covering. Every news outlet in America grasps the problem here, except one.
Last month CNN defended its decision to let Chris conduct softball interviews with Andrew this way:
“The early months of the pandemic crisis were an extraordinary time,” a CNN spokesperson told ET in a statement. “We felt that Chris speaking with his brother about the challenges of what millions of American families were struggling with was of significant human interest. As a result, we made an exception to a rule that we have had in place since 2013 which prevents Chris from interviewing and covering his brother, and that rule remains in place today. CNN has covered the news surrounding Governor Cuomo extensively.”
They made a special pandemic exception precisely so that Andrew could have feelgood, softball conversations with his brother. Think of that. It’d be one thing if they’d made an exception and Chris had seized on it to press his brother about his nursing-home policies, a matter of sufficient public interest that one might justify CNN’s rule-bending in hindsight as a matter of good journalism. But the network did the opposite — they bent the rules so that the governor would have an unchallenging platform on which to do “I feel your pain” public relations. They’re all but admitting that they let their network go into the tank for Cuomo by giving him free airtime to do morale-boosters for their viewers. No wonder the myth of Andrew Cuomo, lion of the pandemic, has proved so durable.
Which, in a way, makes Chris’s decision not to cover the sexual harassment scandal last night oddly consistent. Andrew’s scandal is a news story, and Chris doesn’t cover news about his brother. When he covers Andrew it’s pure naked PR, approved and broadcast by a supposedly “serious” news network.
Exit quotation from Charles Cooke: “There’s a word for this: corruption.”