Chris Cuomo on advising his brother: I'm sorry for letting my colleagues down by getting caught

I’m not being cute with the headline. Having watched this clip twice, it’s clear to me that he doesn’t regret the core conflict of interest here, which is privately advising his brother on developments being covered as news by his colleagues. An employee of CNN is secretly helping to shape events that CNN as an institution is trying to report on dispassionately, with no disclosure to viewers of Cuomo’s role until his hand was forced.

And he’s okay with that. “I am family first, job second,” he says at one point. No regrets.

What he regrets is having given his brother advice on a conference call, where there were witnesses who could (and did) leak to the press about Chris’s participation. That revelation embarrassed the network, and for that he’s sorry.

He has no remorse for robbing the bank, in other words, only for having been captured doing it by surveillance cameras. From now on he’ll carry out his conflict of interest in one-on-one chats with Andrew exclusively.

I’ve never tried to influence CNN’s coverage of my brother, he says at one point. Uh, that’s not true:

He turned CNN into a PR shop for Cuomo’s reelection campaign last spring by doing softball interviews with him about the pandemic, although we can only fault Chris so much for that given that it was done with the full approval of network executives.

But even if Cuomo hadn’t done those interviews, he has influenced the network’s coverage of Andrew. Not directly, perhaps, by leaning on reporters there to go easy on Andrew. But he’s done so indirectly by advising his brother, which influenced Andrew’s own actions. By encouraging the governor to pursue certain courses of action, like refusing to resign, he’s necessarily influenced the content of news stories about Andrew, including his own network’s. On some level he doesn’t seem to grasp that.

You might read all of that and think, “C’mon, what’s he supposed to do? Stop talking to his brother altogether while Andrew’s going through the greatest professional crisis of his life?” No, not necessarily. Chris is free to put family first and job second.

Just get another job. One that doesn’t pit your personal interests and your professional duties against each other.

In the end I share Dan Foster’s mystification at CNN’s abiding attachment to Cuomo, a guy who is indeed replacement-level by news industry standards. There are a thousand TV-savvy professional journalists who share Cuomo’s bland left-of-center politics whom CNN could plug in at 9 p.m. to draw the same dismal ratings Cuomo does. Except those people, by dint of their training, might break some actual hard news sometimes. And CNN could take the money they saved on salary by dumping Cuomo and plowing it into hiring a few dozen investigative reporters who’d add far more value to the network than Cuomo does.

I get why he wants to have his cake and eat it too with respect to his dual advisor/journalist careers. I just don’t get why CNN wants it as well.

I’ll leave you with this question from the Daily Beast. Any theories on an answer? I have one.