Was Chris Cuomo right to prioritize his sleazy brother over basic professional ethics?

I was not prepared for this series of hot takes about Cuomo the Lesser from certain media figures, including a few at Fox News.



Any other media industry workers out there want to advertise their willingness to behave unethically? If so, specify which other causes besides family you’d be willing to assist by ditching your professional integrity.

According to the Daily Beast, Cuomo’s own colleagues at CNN aren’t as sympathetic as the people above to his frequent ethical breaches on his brother’s behalf:

The people with knowledge of the situation said CNN boss Jeff Zucker had felt serious heat from infuriated talent, including Jake Tapper, over the last 24 hours and acted to yank Cuomo off the air while the review is carried out.

Another CNN insider told The Daily Beast that Cuomo had become incredibly unpopular among network staffers and fellow hosts. “I don’t know anyone who likes him,” the insider added.

“He was surviving because it didn’t make Zucker look bad. Now it is,” a senior journalist who used to work for Zucker told The Daily Beast.

Weirdly, the anchors at Fox are more willing to see it from Cuomo’s perspective, starting with the guy who dominates him in the 9 p.m. time slot:

“It’s clear that Chris totally mishandled the mess with his brother,” Hannity continued. “We don’t know what the governor told him from the start, and honestly, he probably, my guess, wasn’t honest with his own brother.”

“But it’s easy to support people when things in life are going well, it’s always easy. Chris’ brother, Andrew, was in big trouble,” Hannity continued. “Helping a brother, and a friend, in the worst moment of their life, is probably not the worst offense and he probably lied to himself even though he handled it wrong in terms of his work.”

“If Chris does get back on the air, I assume he will apologize,” he concluded. “I believe in second chances when sincere apologies are made, but it’s you the audience that decides if the apology is sincere.”

Maybe that’s Hannity letting his inner nice guy out. Or maybe it’s Hannity reflecting on the many times he privately advised Trump while Trump was president and concluding that people in ethical glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Even stranger was this segment last night from Tucker Carlson, which starts as a rip-roaring skewering of Cuomo’s lack of talent and general weirdness before veering into an indictment of corporate media’s misplaced priorities. Of course Cuomo was right to put his brother first, Carlson concluded. They — the soulless predatory billionaire media overlords — will never understand why the average joe values family over money.

You wouldn’t have expected that monologue to end with a defense of Cuomo given the way it began but the Trump-era nationalist right does prize loyalty over ethical obligations, so go figure that Chris might find some defenders at Fox.

There are three questions in deciding how to balance one’s duties to family with one’s moral and ethical duties. One: What is it family is asking you to do? If your brother asks you to help him hide a body, do you do it? How about if he asks you to actually participate in the murder? “Family first” is a noble sentiment in most circumstances, but the sleazier one’s relative is, the weaker the obligation gets. As others have noted:

I watched a true crime show not long ago in which a serial arsonist was turned over to police by his own parents, who helped the cops set up a sting to nab him. They were devout Christians and couldn’t bear the thought of their son hurting people despite the obvious love they felt for him. Did they do the wrong thing?

Two: When family needs your help, is there a way to help them that doesn’t require you to behave unethically? E.g.:

“If your brother calls you and says he’s being accused of sexual harassment by multiple women and needs your help – you help him by recommending counseling, not by helping ruin his accusers using the insider information you can get at work and then lying about it on the record,” said Noam Blum about Tucker’s segment last night. Chris also could have asked for a leave of absence from CNN to work for his brother full time while the scandal played out, to avoid a conflict of interest for his network. I don’t think I’ve seen a single commentator in all of this suggest that he categorically should have refused to assist Andrew, not even offering him brotherly advice. The criticism has to do with Cuomo insisting on staying on the job at CNN and exploiting his media connections there to help his brother.

Three: Even if you think family loyalty required Chris to do anything and everything Andrew asked of him, we all agree that CNN has a right to fire him, no? Chris may have a fraternal duty to Andrew but CNN sure doesn’t. The network has an ethical duty to report the news fully and accurately to its viewers; Chris made them violate that duty by covering up the role he was playing in current events which the network was covering. He was entitled to put family first and accept the consequences for doing so, as we all are. He wasn’t entitled to be paid for it.