Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been fired. Well, he resigned—finally. It was for the wrong scandal, but the New York attorney general’s report on his gropy tendencies finally did him in and now he’s gone. In two weeks, the Cuomo era is over, but it was over the wrong scandal. Cuomo should have been scalped for signing the nursing home order that spread the circus, killed thousands of seniors, and then tried to cover up the death toll. Hey, at least something got enough prominent Democrats to say, ‘this guy has to go.’ So, big Andrew is done for, but what about little Chris?
We know the man worked behind the scenes, giving crisis management advice while still hosting a show on CNN—and he had Andrew on multiple times for lovefest media hits. Erik Wemple of The Washington Post picked apart the whole fiasco that’s engulfed the Cuomo brothers. It was mostly due to Brian Stelter’s half-assed defense of Chris, his show, and CNN’s involvement in this mess. Stelter chalked Chris’s involvement as an ‘optics’ problem. And that’s when Wemple goes to town (via WaPo):
…there is no optics problem. It’s all substance. The network acknowledged as much earlier this year when it issued a statement scolding Chris Cuomo for having participated in conference calls to assist Andrew Cuomo: "Chris has not been involved in CNN’s extensive coverage of the allegations against Governor Cuomo — on air or behind the scenes. In part because, as he has said on his show, he could never be objective. But also because he often serves as a sounding board for his brother. However, 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.” (Chris Cuomo apologized on air for the lapse.)
More substance: The Post reported in May that Chris Cuomo, in his discussions with his brother’s support group, “encouraged his brother to take a defiant position and not to resign from the governor’s office, the people [familiar with the conversations] 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.” (We put several questions before Stelter, who declined to respond on the record; Stelter did ask to interview Chris Cuomo but was turned down.)
Another non-optics problem for CNN emerges from the attorney general’s report itself: The fellow to whom Chris Cuomo provided crisis-management advice has spent years, per the testimony of his own employees, ruining women’s careers with his sexually suggestive comments and his groping mitts. The 168-page report is redundant and tedious, through no fault of its drafters; the governor reportedly repeated his abusive behavior with victim after victim.
The AG report, of course, focuses on Andrew Cuomo’s conduct, not Chris Cuomo’s. That’s why CNN needs to commission a report of its own to determine just how its star anchor fit into this sexual harassment pushback effort. What, precisely, did he say in the conference calls? Was he aware that the executive chamber had provided false information to the Albany Times-Union as the paper explored the predicament of “Trooper #1”? What role did he play in the governor’s denials?
Wemple added for context that in July, The New York Times found out that one of their sports reporters, Karen Crouse, was co-authoring a book about Michael Phelps while she was covering him. She was a 16-year veteran at the publication. The paper conducted a probe and she resigned. Now, it’s not a massive conflict of interest issue, but the paper found it serious enough for an investigation and now she’s gone. Cuomo’s debacle is much more serious and if Ms. Crouse can be shown the exit for failing to disclose a book deal, Chris’ little foray into crisis management for his big brother probably should have the same consequences, no?