December 9, 2013

By the time CNN’s “Reliable Sources” aired yesterday morning, the world had long since forgotten about the Cuomo-on-Cuomo imbroglio. On Monday, following the Thanksgiving-weekend commuter derailment in New York, CNN morning anchor Chris Cuomo interviewed his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, about the accident. A flash debate sprung up over the appropriateness of a CNN reporter interviewing a family member. In the intervening days, Nelson Mandela died, President Obama whacked the media on MSNBC and so on.

So Brian Stelter, the new host of “Reliable Sources,” could have ducked the issue with minimal consequences. But he didn’t. The program faced down the topic, with some diversity of opinion: The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi said (correctly) that the interview was “outrageous” and an obvious conflict of interest; American University journalism professor Jane Hall said (half-correctly) that there “may be” a conflict of interest; and Stelter said this: “My impression is that it was great television, it was great to see them next to each other. Maybe it wasn’t great journalism, and of course in TV, there’s both elements involved.”

That’s what you call mealy-mouthed, expert-sounding, highfalutin’ equivocation. Credit Stelter for addressing this patent conflict of interest, but slight him for giving his colleagues an exit hatch.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.