CNN anchor Chris Cuomo couldn’t have asked for a sweeter response. In a much-talked-about interview with Alexander Borodai, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Cuomo asked about a tweet and intercepted communications pointing to the culpability of Borodai’s separatist fighters in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. Borodai delivered a memorable, nearly full-body eye-roll and said this: “It is very simple to disprove it. All of the information that comes through the Internet, in my opinion, is practically all lies.”
He blamed the Internet!
The comical response of Borodai, who was elected to his post in May, contrasted with the tense circumstances surrounding the interview, as Cuomo described in an interview today with the Erik Wemple Blog. “There were large men with loaded weapons looking at me with complete hostility and my team. It was not an easy interview to do for any of us,” says Cuomo, adding that the retinue of the Donetsk leader was “very much on edge. They wouldn’t let him sit near a window. They really think that people want to kill him,” says Cuomo.
Yet Borodai wanted an audience, Cuomo says. When asked how he’d snared the sit-down with Borodai, Cuomo cited the “excellent connections of CNN.” “This guy wanted the opportunity” to reach CNN’s viewership and tell his side of the story. (Perhaps not the best decision).
Cuomo was dispatched to the Ukraine within an hour of last Thursday’s MH17 catastrophe. On Friday morning, he was reporting from Ukraine for his morning show “New Day” and has served as CNN’s main talent in the field ever since. Over that spell, CNN customers have received a dose of his strong moral outrage, both on air and on Cuomo’s Twitter feed:
Media presence at the site of the MH17 wreckage, argues Cuomo, is particularly important considering that international organizations and teams from various countries have stayed away. “It’s obviously a battle zone,” says Cuomo. “But I do not think the situation here as I’ve witnessed it is bad enough to justify no international response to the investigative efforts.” Were it not for media coverage, “there’d be even more of an injustice here than there is already.”
Cuomo is heading today to Amsterdam, the better to chronicle the lives of the victims of MH17, more than 150 of whom were from the Netherlands. Their “dignity,” says Cuomo, suffered a great deal as the remains of the passengers were “left to rot in the sun” in eastern Ukraine. “It’s horrible to say but too true not to say it,” he says.
Interviewing Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) from the battle zone, Cuomo asked if the congressman could “shoot down” the notion that Ukrainian forces had shot down the airliner. Even though Cuomo said “excuse the pun,” some media sites wrote citations. Jon Stewart of the “Daily Show” chose Cuomo’s pun as a “Moment of Zen,” a quick segment that often highlights cable stumbles.
“I made a mistake,” says Cuomo. “In terms of who reacted to it and how, it’s strictly a case of consider the source.” Stewart is a comedian who indulges in takedowns of the mainstream media, and bloggers “are what they are — they traffic in snark and negativity,” says Cuomo. Later in the chat, Cuomo circled back to that comedian: “If it seems like I’m being disrespectful of Jon Stewart, it’s only because I am. He’s funny but he doesn’t do the job we do and he shouldn’t pretend he does.”