Friday, January 21, 2022

Loyalty to family – instead of CNN – puts Cuomo at risk

NEW YORK (AP) – Have a family and your job as a journalist. Chris Cuomo’s willingness to put the latter at risk in the service of his brother led to his suspension from CNN.

The network took him off the air on Tuesday, saying material released by New York’s attorney general showed he played a bigger role than previously admitted in protecting his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, as he fought the charges. in sexual harassment.

Email transcripts and testimony from Chris Cuomo to state investigators showed that he regularly strategized with the governor’s aides and tried to help them find out what other journalists were reporting on the harassment allegations.

CNN said he was more involved than his executives, and not just the general public, knew.

“As a result, we suspended Chris indefinitely pending further evaluation,” a CNN spokesman said.

Neither Cuomo nor the lawyer who represented him in testimony to investigators at Attorney General Laetitia James this summer sent messages asking for comment.

Cuomo are part of a New York political dynasty that began with their father Mario, who served three terms as governor from 1982 to 1996. Andrew was in his third term before retiring earlier this year, and he burned out to break his father’s record.

Andrew was his father’s most trusted aide and protector during Mario’s first campaign and during his early years as governor – an example of the loyalty Chris grew up with despite being more than 13 years younger than his brother at 51.

They often call themselves best friends.

“He is my brother and I love him to death no matter what,” Chris Cuomo said in his testimony this July. “I only have one.”

However, they were very competitive, said Michael Schneierson, author of Andrew’s unauthorized biography, The Challenger, published in 2015.

“There was always a strong bond under the ridicule and courage – Cuomo versus the world,” Schneierson said. “I can imagine it’s too easy for Chris to let this connection cloud his judgment when it comes to covering news and tracking information about Andrew’s political opponents.”

Throughout his testimony, Chris Cuomo often returns to his family when asked to explain his frequent contacts – often belligerent – with Andrew’s aides as they tried to find a way to keep the governor’s job.

“This is my brother, and I am trying to help my brother in a situation where he told me that he did nothing wrong,” said Chris. “And that’s all for me. How can I help protect my family? How can I protect him? Probably, I should have thought more about how I protect myself, which never crossed my mind. “

James’ investigation revealed that Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women. He stepped down as governor in August to avoid a likely impeachment trial.

The last time he spoke to his brother about the allegations, Chris Cuomo said during his testimony, he wanted to find out what was about to happen and what he would tell their 90-year-old mother.

Cuomo insisted that he did nothing to try to influence CNN’s coverage of his brother’s political issues, and that if he did, it would be quickly clarified.

“While people may feel willing to help a family member, their primary responsibility as a journalist is to viewers at CNN,” said Kathleen Culver, director of the Center for Journalistic Ethics at the University of Wisconsin. These revelations could damage the reputation of CNN and all journalists, while people are already suspicious of the profession, she said.

Journalists need to gain independence from newsmakers. Cuomo “was not independent from his brother in any sense of the word, and that’s a very, very big problem,” Culver said.

When The Washington Post first reported last May that Cuomo had strategized with his brother’s aides, CNN said it was inappropriate, but did not discipline him.

“When Chris confessed to us that he was giving advice to his brother’s employees, he broke our rules and we publicly admitted it,” a CNN spokesman said Tuesday. “But we also appreciated the unique position he was in and understood that he needed to put family first and work second.”

At the request of his brother’s aides, Cuomo also used his contacts to find out what other journalists were about to report, most notably Ronan Farrow from New York. Cuomo said that “the idea of ​​one reporter calling another to find out what’s going on is common.”

For competitive reasons, journalists often ask what competitors are working on, although a phone call for this reason is likely to result in an angry loss of connection.

In this case, Cuomo was looking for “inside information that would be valuable to a member of his family,” Culver said. “It is not inside information that serves the public. That’s what makes it so unusual. “

CNN’s final decision on Cuomo’s future is complex, in part because it draws attention to how he has dealt with the matter in the past and to its own efforts to investigate his activities. Cuomo testified that he did not tell anyone on CNN that he contacted other journalists to find out about the Farrow story.

“His removal from CNN is the right move, and something that should have happened first,” said Ben Bogardus, professor of journalism at Queennipack University in Connecticut. “The longer it went on, the more credibility CNN lost.”

Nielsen reported that Cuomo Prime Time had an average of 1.3 million viewers per night this year. While its audience has shrunk dramatically since the 2020 election year, as is the case with many cable TV news programs, the show remains CNN’s most watched show and Cuomo’s departure will leave a big hole.

His suspension makes some of the advice Cuomo told investigators that he gave his brother during the harassment scandal sound intimidating, like it might relate to his own situation.

“You have to tell the truth,” Cuomo said, advising his brother. “You don’t need to be persuaded to tell the truth. You have to admit that this was not the case. You must apologize. And you have to tell people what you learned from that. “

Whether he will get such a chance is an open question.

Nation World News Desk
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