Revealed: Chris Cuomo participated in Andrew's strategy calls on sexual harassment allegations

Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Will Chris be addressing this story on tonight’s program or will it be ignored under his show’s “we don’t report on Andrew unless it’s good news” policy?

Andy Levy makes a reasonable point: “To be fair, how could you possibly discipline a guy for clearly violating journalistic ethics when you encouraged him to do it last year?” Right, go figure that a “news” anchor who did a softball interview with his own brother with the approval of network management while wielding a giant Q-tip doesn’t take his professional obligations seriously.

I’m already looking forward to the next time Chris reports on a #MeToo story somewhere and furrows his brow with theatrical concern:

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo advised his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and senior members of the governor’s staff on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations made earlier this year by women who had worked with the governor, according to four people familiar with the discussions…

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.

The behind-the-scenes strategy offered by Chris Cuomo, who anchors CNN’s 9 p.m. nightly newscast, cuts against the widely accepted norm in journalism that those reporting the news should not be involved in politics.

“If you are actively advising a politician in trouble while being an on-air host on a news network, that’s not okay,” said Nicholas Lemann, a professor at Columbia Journalism School and a New Yorker staff writer.

I always thought Chris was (marginally) the smarter of the Cuomo boys, but between his grasp of “cancel culture” and the fact that he was apparently participating in conference calls multiple people without expecting his involvement to eventually leak, that theory is being tested today. “Cancel culture” is when you’re a random nobody who says something unpopular on Twitter and suddenly has a mob of irate leftists phoning your boss to demand your firing. “Cancel culture” is *not* the governor of New York being investigated for various forms of sexual misconduct against his women deputies.

CNN acknowledged to WaPo that it was “inappropriate” for Cuomo to have had an undisclosed role in shaping a news development that his colleagues were covering and that he’s promised not to do it again, cross his heart and hope to die. But … they’re not punishing him for it, which is inexplicable to me unless one of two things is true. Either management knew of the calls and quietly condoned them, which would make disciplining him now unfair, or they’re reasoning that because Chris and Andrew are family — that is, because the conflict of interest here is especially glaring — they should let him slide.

Bad, either way. Especially since this isn’t the first time Chris has had a heretofore unknown role in an Andrew Cuomo scandal. He was also one of the family members who received priority COVID testing by the state in the early days of the pandemic, back when tests were hard to come by even for elderly people in nursing homes who were infected. Imagine being a CNN reporter investigating the juicy story of the governor ordering scarce tests for friends and family only to find that the guy in the next office has known about it for months but kept it to himself because it turns out he was a beneficiary of that nepotism.

Better yet, imagine being a woman staffer at CNN, especially one who works on Chris Cuomo’s show, and finding out today that he urged his brother to fight the harassment allegations against him:

Needless to say, if one of those lower-level staffers got caught advising someone who’s the subject of network coverage without disclosing it, they’d be unemployed before the day is out.

CNN also happens to be known for having the most aggressive media watchdog outfit among the cable news networks, with Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy obsessively covering Fox News and its foibles. Will they be covering their own network’s Cuomo-driven foible? They will, it turns out. This story’s too ugly for them to ignore it entirely:

The revelation that Cuomo had advised his brother vexed staffers inside CNN. Multiple CNN staffers said they were bothered by Cuomo’s conduct and the violation of traditional journalistic standards.

Journalists typically do not engage in politics so that they can cover the news in an impartial manner.

Why isn’t he being disciplined, then?

Fox will cover it, rest assured, although Cuomo’s conflict of interest could be tricky for them. There’s no analog at FNC to an anchor quietly advising a family member whose daily doings are being followed by the network’s news division but there are lots of examples of Fox anchors advising friends. Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Lou Dobbs, and Pete Hegseth, to name just a few, have all informally advised Donald Trump in the past, allegedly. As the journalism prof quoted in the excerpt above said, “If you are actively advising a politician in trouble while being an on-air host on a news network, that’s not okay.” It doesn’t need to be a familial relationship to make it unethical.

I’ll leave you with this trip down memory lane, which happened one year ago to the day. It’s turned out to be a special anniversary.