The ethical pitfall in this relationship, it turns out, was deeper than just brother interviewing brother. As reported by the Times Union of Albany and The Post on Wednesday, Chris Cuomo received special treatment from the state for the coronavirus: “The CNN anchor was swabbed by a top New York Department of Health doctor, who visited his Hamptons home to collect samples from him and his family, the people with knowledge of the matter said,” reports The Post. Chris Cuomo announced on March 31 that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
“We do not have the testing data to make real sense of our reality beyond what we know is the face of it for an overwhelming number who gets sick,” said Chris Cuomo after getting the news. “And that face is mine. I tested positive. Scary, yes, as you might imagine. But better me than you.” Over the following weeks, the host used his perch on “Cuomo Prime Time” to deliver the headlines about the coronavirus, as well as to narrate his own travails with the disease.
Andrew Cuomo addressed Chris Cuomo’s diagnosis in his book about leadership during the coronavirus: “It felt unnatural for me not to be able to see him and help him,” wrote the governor. And “help” he did: According to the Times Union, members of Andrew Cuomo’s family including “his brother, his mother and at least one of his sisters were also tested by top health department officials — some several times, the sources said.” Two sources told the Times Union that Eleanor Adams, a doctor who is now an adviser to New York state’s health commissioner, conducted testing on Chris Cuomo at his Long Island home.
Though New York outpaced other states in coronavirus testing, rationing was still taking place in late March. On his April 1 show, Chris Cuomo addressed this dynamic. “There are so many people in this country who can’t get tested or haven’t gotten results,” said the host.
The Erik Wemple Blog has asked CNN about the treatment Chris Cuomo received, among other questions. Spokesman Matt Dornic issued this statement to outlets: “We generally do not get involved in the medical decisions of our employees. However, it is not surprising that in the earliest days of a once-in-a-century global pandemic, when Chris was showing symptoms and was concerned about possible spread, he turned to anyone he could for advice and assistance, as any human being would.”
Instead of addressing the ethical questions raised by the arrangement, CNN appears to be crediting the resourcefulness of its well-positioned anchor. The story deepens an ethical embarrassment for CNN. Throughout those spring Cuomo-on-Cuomo interviews, the governor was at the peak of his power. His daily news conferences on the state’s coronavirus response cultivated a large and loyal sliver of the American public turned off by Trump’s freak-show briefings. Those sessions netted him an International Emmy Founders Award.
But this year, the governor’s political fortunes cratered, thanks to scandals involving the undercounting of nursing-home covid deaths and alleged sexual harassment. Suddenly Chris Cuomo was no longer suited to interviewing Andrew Cuomo. “Obviously, I’m aware of what’s going on with my brother,” Chris Cuomo told viewers in early March. “And, obviously, I cannot cover it, because he is my brother.”
Now there’s another layer to the ethical morass: As Chris Cuomo was promoting his brother’s leadership on CNN, he was receiving services derived from that relationship. We’ve asked CNN about the degree to which he disclosed the situation publicly and within the network.
After receiving his positive test result, Cuomo said on his show, “I’m hesitant to talk about me because who cares?” Actually, a lot of people care about the activities of CNN’s prime-time hosts — especially when they reek of unaccountable elitism forced into the light of day via investigative reporting.