CNN anchor Chris Cuomo acted in a “highly inappropriate” manner by advising his big brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, about how to handle a string of sexual misconduct allegations, according to a prominent journalism organization.
Tom Jones of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies wrote that the “Cuomo Prime Time” host’s relationship with his politico sibling represented “a conflict of interest that has been more than a year in the making … [and] finally blew up in CNN’s face.”
The Washington Post reported Thursday that Chris Cuomo took part in strategy sessions with the governor’s lawyer and aides, a clear violation of journalistic ethics. During those sessions, the paper reported, Chris Cuomo advised his older brother not to resign from office and depicted the governor as a would-be victim of “cancel culture.”
“The host of a primetime show on one of the country’s biggest and most influential cable news networks is advising one of the most powerful and influential politicians in this country on how to handle serious sexual misconduct allegations,” Jones wrote. “This is highly inappropriate for a journalist.”
Chris Cuomo copped to helping his brother out in brief remarks on his CNN show Thursday night, saying: “This is no revelation. I have said it publicly and I certainly have never hidden it. I can be objective on just about any topic but not about my family.”
The younger Cuomo went on to apologize for putting “my colleagues … who I believe are the best in the business in a bad spot.”
In a statement, CNN said that while Chris Cuomo “often serves as a sounding board for his brother … it 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.”
The network added that the prime-time host would not be disciplined.
“I don’t even know where to start on all the problems with this,” wrote Jones, who asked: “How do staffers at CNN — especially women — feel about a powerful employee trying to help someone, even if it is his brother, defuse and overcome allegations of disturbing sexual misbehavior? How do the women who made these allegations feel about a high-profile cable news network personality trying to help the man accused of such awful things? How about the citizens of New York?”
“It’s one thing to recuse yourself from coverage. It’s another to try to go behind the scenes and try to help shape what happens,” added Jones, who pointed out that Chris Cuomo was likely advising his older brother “how to deal with the media and change the media narrative.
“In other words,” Jones continued, “while Chris Cuomo’s colleagues and other media outlets are doggedly working on this story, Chris is advising his brother and his brother’s staff on how to deal with the media and their reporting.”
In March, Chris Cuomo announced he would not cover the sexual harassment allegations against his brother on his CNN program, a statement which rang hollow with some viewers given the number of appearances Andrew Cuomo made on the program during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jones stopped short of calling for Chris Cuomo to be fired from CNN, writing he didn’t know if the anchor’s behavior rose to the “egregious” level necessary for dismissal.
“But CNN should’ve seen all this coming, and now it has to live with the consequences,” he concluded, “which is some viewers not being able to trust a major personality on its network.”