WATERTOWN — Having the last name of Cuomo brings a lot of benefits with it in New York.
Why, it means you get a bridge dedicated in your memory. It also allows you to receive preferential treatment when it comes to necessary testing for the novel coronavirus.
In addition, you have the right to expect your staff members to “volunteer” their time to help you write a book. And if you’re a Cuomo, you don’t need to worry about being disciplined by your employer for engaging in behavior that violates your professional standards.
Wow! The advantages are beginning to pile up here.
And so are the controversies. Every few weeks, a new scandal emerges surrounding the Cuomo family.
The latest one involves Chris Cuomo, who hosts “Cuomo Prime Time” on CNN. The cable news anchor counseled his brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as well as administration staffers, lawyers and advisers on how to respond to accusations of sexual assault and harassment.
“CNN anchor Chris Cuomo advised his brother, New York Gov. Andrew M. 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. Cuomo, one of the network’s top stars, joined a series of conference calls that included the Democratic governor, his top aide, his communications team, lawyers and a number of outside advisers, according to the people familiar with the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private sessions,” an article published Thursday by the Washington Post reported. “The calls occurred earlier this year when a growing number of claims that Andrew Cuomo made inappropriate comments or touched women without their permission had escalated into a political crisis for the three-term governor. 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.”
Chris Cuomo’s desire to help his brother out of a public relations debacle is understandable. If you can’t count on members of your family to stand by you, who are you supposed to lean on?
But at the same time, Cuomo must consider the optics of offering pointers on the governor’s PR campaign. As a journalist, it’s his job to pursue the truth. But he placed himself in the midst of an effort to deflect the unpleasant facts of his brother’s behavior to salvage a political career.
The issue is not so much that Cuomo gave advice to a sibling. It’s that he took part in a strategy session with the governor’s apologists.
Cuomo acknowledged his mistake, offered his regrets and said he won’t do it again. CNN called his actions “inappropriate” but said no disciplinary measures would be taken.
Dirt, meet the underneath of this rug.
It isn’t a secret that Andrew and Chris Cuomo are brothers, so no one should believe the CNN anchor will be at all objective about anything the governor does or says. In a way, the Cuomo-and-Cuomo interactions on cable television have been harmless because the expectations of honest journalism are immediately tossed out the window. Take these interviews for whatever they’re worth.
However, CNN’s decision to let Cuomo slide on his breach of ethics sends the wrong message. Many journalists have been punished for similar offenses, and some for even milder ones.
In addition, this perpetuates the image that Cuomos get to do whatever they want and avoid the consequences. Chris Cuomo and his family were among the governor’s loved ones named as priorities for coronavirus testing. Having a member of its news staff benefit from high-profile connections does not enhance what little is left of CNN’s journalistic integrity.
Heading into a potential re-election bid next year, Andrew Cuomo is further exposed as a public official who doles out favors to those closest to him at the expense of others. Chris Cuomo has now dragged CNN into this sorry mess, and the news outlet won’t do anything to defend its image. Like other ethics scandals involving journalists, this one does the news media no good.
Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to email@example.com. They also may follow him on Twitter: @WDT_OpEd.