I thought I'd said my piece on this controversy, which received relatively scant media attention, for all the obvious yet unacceptable reasons. In short: CNN host Chris Cuomo, younger brother of the governor of the state hit hardest by the coronavirus, violated his quarantine while he was still symptomatic and contagious with the highly-transmissible virus. While doing so, he was accosted by a stranger. Days later, he "emerged" from quarantine in front of the cameras, as if his little adventure had never happened. I argued that all of this was problematic -- from an example-setting standpoint, from a public health standpoint, and from a journalistic standpoint. Cuomo is now making things worse by lying about what happened:
Sure - it is just a lie. I was past quarantine. Was never in public. My fam was cursed at in our own backyard by a guy with an open case for allegedly biting a man’s hands. Those are facts ignored by trump grumps— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) April 29, 2020
This is, based on Cuomo's own real-time accounts, a lie. He was not "past quarantine." He was in public. He was not in his own backyard. Hence the lame but telling "trump grumps" deflection. The New York Post's Karol Markowicz has the goods:
Hi, Trump’s grump here. If you were past quarantine then why did you stage yourself emerging from quarantine 8 days later? Why did you tell Dr.Gupta, 2 days after that incident, that you had not gone the requisite 72 hours without fever? https://t.co/kLUtCYvN9B— Karol Markowicz (@karol) April 29, 2020
As a reminder, Cuomo reportedly got into his confrontation (which he discussed at length on his radio show at the time) approximately half an hour away from the home in which he was supposed to be quarantining. This was not his "backyard," it was a separate plot of land he owns. The fact that he was away from his quarantine home, in public view of a stranger pedaling past -- and apparently an unidentified woman who was not part of his immediate family -- means that he was in public:
The 65-year-old longtime resident said he was just out for a bike ride before Easter dinner when he spotted who he thought was Chris Cuomo on property he says the CNN anchor bought in East Hampton last year. The acreage is still being developed; a steel frame for its future house is all that’s up at the moment, David said. David said Cuomo was with his wife, another woman and three kids who were playing around on the property. The resident said he stopped and sat on his bike “well over a hundred feet” from the property. “I just looked and said, ‘Is that Chris Cuomo? Isn’t he supposed to be quarantined?'”
There was a police report filed about the incident. Other reporting also confirms that this encounter occurred at a property other than the one where Cuomo was supposed to be quarantining. These facts appear to contradict Cuomo's two lies in his short tweet. Perhaps the biggest lie is the assertion that he was "past quarantine" at that time. The incident occurred on Easter Sunday, April 12. Two days later, Cuomo went on national television and said he still had symptoms:
April 14- He discusses with Sanjay Gupta that he has NOT gone without fever for 72 hours which Gupta says is what doctors look for to allow someone to leave isolation. Cuomo appears fully aware of that guideline. Cuomo says he went 60 hours. https://t.co/XiGQgLFGwn— Karol Markowicz (@karol) April 21, 2020
And then there's this, from his wife's coronavirus blog:
Something I noticed in that bizarre blog Chris Cuomo’s wife writes: these were the notes from Easter Sunday when Chris broke quarantine and had the hostile encounter with that bicyclist. https://t.co/A2KpKr1OyT pic.twitter.com/oeQPym9bqj— Jimmy (@JimmyPrinceton) April 27, 2020
It was not until the 20th, eight days later, that -- with lights glowing and cameras rolling -- he ostentatiously ended his quarantine, declaring that he'd been "cleared by the CDC." His denial tweet above claims that he was through his quarantine period more than a week earlier than his televised stunt. And that's the kicker on all of this: His lies aren't being exposed by some cloak-and-dagger sleuthing. They're being exposed by Cuomo's own words. Cuomo has now taken to airing tut-tutting segments about Vice President Pence not wearing a mask at a medical facility -- which stirred disproportionate outrage, given Pence's multiple negative coronavirus test results. I happen to agree that Pence should probably have worn the mask, as a matter of setting a good example and abiding by CDC guidelines. Cuomo could have used the opportunity to come clean and apologize, along these lines:
As I express concerns about the Vice President's actions, I want to be transparent about something involving me. You may have heard that I didn't abide by all the quarantine rules that I should have, visiting a property that I own before I should have been going anywhere. Someone noticed and called me out, and I reacted poorly. As the brother of the governor, as a news anchor, and as someone who cares about others' ell-being, I shouldn't have done that, and I can understand why my 'emergence' from my basement on this show, days later, could be seen as misleading or dishonest. I apologize and will strive to do better in the future, and rebuild any trust that may have been eroded because of this.
That would have been the most honorable and honest thing to do. Second best would have been to just shut his mouth and never mention any of this again, silently thanking his luck stars to have erred so badly during a very busy news cycle, with many colleagues covering for him through silence. The worst possible option is to double down and lie about it, which is what he's choosing to do. This should be a problem for him, his network, and his brother. As I previously wrote, "it must be positively unbearable for [Americans suffering under lockdown] to listen to lectures from media figures, living in hotspots, who are flouting guidelines even when they literally have the disease themselves. It's hard to imagine a more pungent example of above-the-rules, do-as-I-sayism than this." The indignant, provable lies make it more pungent.
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