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Chris Cuomo’s involvement detailed in Andrew Cuomo harassment report, but CNN host doesn’t address it

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, and his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. (Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

CNN provided wall-to-wall coverage of one of the biggest news stories of the day Tuesday: the damning report released by the New York attorney general that concluded Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, which led President Biden to call for the governor’s resignation.

Among the 179 people interviewed by the independent investigators was CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, Andrew Cuomo’s younger brother who had advised the governor and his aides on how to respond to allegations of harassment.

Chris Cuomo did not acknowledge his involvement in the investigation or the report’s findings during his prime-time show Tuesday night. “We’re focused on covid here, especially until we get the delta variant under control,” he said at the top of the program, before talking about Biden’s handling of the pandemic. Later in the hour he criticized another governor, Florida Republican Ron DeSantis, for his messaging during the surge of cases in his state. A spokesman for CNN declined to comment, instead pointing to past statements Chris Cuomo and the network have made.

Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple female staffers in violation of state and federal law, N.Y. attorney general concludes

In March, the CNN star apologized on air for offering crisis communications counsel after The Washington Post reported that he participated in strategy calls about allegations that his brother harassed several women. “It will not happen again,” Chris Cuomo said on air at the time. “It was a mistake because I put my colleagues here, who I believe are the best in the business, in a bad spot.”

At the time, CNN had said the anchor had not been involved in the network’s coverage on the allegations but that “it was inappropriate to engage in conversations that included members of the Governor’s staff, which Chris acknowledges.” The network had also said Chris Cuomo would not be disciplined.

The Post’s Philip Bump analyzes what might happen to New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) following an investigation of sexual harassment allegations. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

New York Attorney General Letitia James issued the 165-page report Tuesday that detailed findings and interviews with the governor’s accusers, his advisers and himself. It painted the governor’s office as retaliatory and contained details of several examples of unwanted touching by Andrew Cuomo, including allegations he groped an executive assistant while hugging her and inappropriately touched a female state trooper he arranged to have on his security detail.

The governor defended himself in a video address he released after the report was made public — which CNN also aired — casting himself as a champion of sexual assault survivors. “The facts are much different than what has been portrayed,” Cuomo said of the report. “That’s not who I am.”

CNN provided extensive coverage of the fallout, but little mention that one of its biggest personalities was involved in the story. Before showing the video in which Andrew Cuomo offered a defense of his actions, CNN’s John King did tell viewers, “I want to put this on the record: Many of you know this, but the governor’s brother, Chris, works right here at CNN as an anchor. We should note that. And he was interviewed as part of this report as someone who reached out and talked to his brother as this crisis was unfolding.”

The report described Chris Cuomo as well as others as members of the governor’s “team of advisors” who “had ongoing and regular discussions about how to respond to the allegations publicly.” It also cited internal documents and communications in naming Chris Cuomo among those “who counseled him to express contrition” after media reports detailing allegations were first published.

Several texts and emails showed how Andrew Cuomo’s inner circle discussed responding to the growing scandal, including a Feb. 28 email from Chris Cuomo that contained what appears to be a draft statement on behalf of his brother responding to the allegations. But it’s unclear whether the CNN anchor wrote the draft statement or how much, if at all, he contributed to its contents. The governor’s office released a version with similar language.

CNN has previously said that since 2013, when Chris Cuomo joined the network, he had been walled off from covering his brother — a common practice that calls for journalists to avoid conflicts of interest to maintain credibility.

But he did end up interviewing his brother six times during first few months of the pandemic. The network said it made an allowance, calling it an extraordinary time and saying there was great human interest in seeing Chris Cuomo talk to his brother, the governor of one of the country’s hardest-hit states, about the virus that upended life in America.

About a year later, three women publicly made harassment allegations against Gov. Cuomo. Chris Cuomo remained noticeably silent, until March 1, the same day the governor formally referred the allegations to the attorney general’s office.

“Obviously, I am aware of what is going on with my brother,” the CNN anchor told viewers at the time. “And obviously I cannot cover it because he is my brother. Now, of course CNN has to cover it. They have covered it extensively and they will continue to do so. I have always cared very deeply about these issues, and profoundly so. I just want to tell you that.”

Sarah Ellison and Jeremy Barr contributed to this report.

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