CNN host Chris Cuomo participated in phone calls with his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to discuss strategies for rescuing the embattled Democrat's political career in the face of the scandals afflicting it. Chris Cuomo was apparently adamant that his brother should not resign.
These talks were inappropriate but the cable news host will not face punishment, CNN told The Washington Post.
It's not terribly surprising that the Cuomos have discussed the situation: They're close family members, and the fact that the governor is presiding over two separate scandals—nursing home deaths during the pandemic and a thorough #MeToo-ing—would certainly come up in their conversations. But it's pretty bad for a cable news anchor to join a strategy session that was specifically convened for the purposes of advising a political figure on avoiding accountability, even if the political figure is his brother. And according to the Post, the younger Cuomo didn't just passively listen or offer emotional support—he urged his brother to stay in office, even reportedly declaring that resigning would be giving in to "cancel culture." (Side note: We really need to declare a moratorium on this application of the term. Politicians facing consequences for their decisions isn't cancel culture, it's democracy.)
Throughout the pandemic, CNN has struggled to navigate the difficulty of having one of its major cable news stars be closely related to the governor of a state that receives a great deal of news coverage. Last spring, the network repeatedly allowed Cuomo to conduct softball interviews with his brother; these segments were often played for laughs, and they became increasingly ridiculous as the full extent of the governor's wrongdoing became evident. The network subsequently reinstated its ban on Cuomo interviewing his brother, and Cuomo has told viewers they should look to other CNN journalists for information on the various scandals, since there's no way he can objectively cover it.
This latest report suggests that behind the scenes, the cable news host has been closely involved in the governor's political decisions:
The episodes further illuminate how the Cuomo brothers, who are 13 years apart in age, have benefited from their respective high perches in politics and media. Early in the coronavirus pandemic, a top state Department of Health doctor was dispatched to the Hamptons to test Chris Cuomo and his family, The Washington Post previously reported.
Aides to the governor said his brother was simply part of an informal effort to provide support in the face of the harassment allegations.
"There were a few phone conversations, with friends and advisers giving the governor advice," said Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor.
Chris Cuomo has long been a key confidant of his brother, regularly advising him about politics, according to people who know both men.
Former and current administration officials said the anchor played an active role early in the governor's coronavirus strategy, suggesting providers for the state to secure protective equipment.
CNN is correct to call these conversations "inappropriate." It's hard to see why disciplinary action would not be merited.