That detail comes from a report in The Post by Josh Dawsey and Sarah Ellison: “Cuomo, one of [CNN’s] top stars, joined a series of conference calls that included the Democratic governor’s top aide, his communications team, lawyers and a number of outside advisers,” noted the story. There has been plenty of ground to cover in those calls. In the past several months, Andrew Cuomo has struggled to minimize scandals, including his handling of covid in New York nursing homes (currently under federal investigation) and a series of sexual harassment complaints from women who have worked for him. (New York state Attorney General Letitia James is running an investigation of the sexual-harassment allegations.) There are also side scandals involving the governor’s use of staff resources to assist in the preparation of his book and the deployment of health resources to provide testing for associates and family members of the governor. (The federal investigation has widened to include the latter allegation, according to Jimmy Vielkind of the Wall Street Journal).
Cuomo’s visibility surged in the early months of the pandemic, thanks in part to his daily press briefings, but also to frequent appearances on “Cuomo Prime Time.” During those interviews, the two brothers flitted between frivolous family chatter and serious discussion of coronavirus policy. When the 10 or so appearances came to an end in June, Chris Cuomo told his brother, "Me having you on the show is an unusual thing. We’ve never really done it. But this was an unusual time. I’m wowed by what you did. And, more importantly, I’m wowed by how you did it.” As the scandals piled on earlier this year, however, Chris Cuomo went from gushing praise to conspicuous silence.
CNN issued a statement defending Cuomo to the Erik Wemple Blog:
The early months of the pandemic crisis were an extraordinary time. We felt that Chris speaking with his brother about the challenges of what millions of American families were struggling with was of significant human interest. As a result, we made an exception to a rule that we have had in place since 2013 which prevents Chris from interviewing and covering his brother, and that rule remains in place today.
The Cuomo-on-Cuomo entanglements have kept the statement-makers at CNN busy this year. Responding to the news that Chris Cuomo had advised his brother on the response to the sexual harassment allegations, a network spokesperson issued this one: “Chris has not been involved in CNN’s extensive coverage of the allegations against Governor Cuomo — on air or behind the scenes. In part because, as he has said on his show, he could never be objective. But also because he often serves as a sounding board for his brother. However, it was inappropriate to engage in conversations that included members of the Governor’s staff, which Chris acknowledges. He will not participate in such conversations going forward."
Pause for a second on that last sentence: The reason that Chris Cuomo “acknowledges" that it was inappropriate to advise his brother in strategy sessions is because, well, he got caught violating one of journalism’s clearest ethical red lines. He gets no credit for acknowledging the transgression, and how are we to trust the pledge not to backslide?
Another problem: Chris Cuomo assured his audience in March that he has “always cared very deeply about these issues, and profoundly so.” What issues, precisely? That declaration came when the sexual-harassment scandal was gaining momentum, so it appears that’s what he was referencing. But when the cameras were off, according to Dawsey and Ellison, “the cable news anchor encouraged his brother to take a defiant position and not to resign from the governor’s office, the people [familiar with the conversations] said. At one point, he used the phrase ‘cancel culture’ as a reason to hold firm in the face of the allegations, two people present on one call said.”
Those particulars add a layer to the crisis facing Chris Cuomo. It’s not just that he advised his brother — it’s how he advised his brother. We have asked CNN whether the “cancel culture” comment squares with the values of CNN, which has projected a far different message in its coverage of the #MeToo movement. Whatever the answer from the network, Andrew Cuomo has certainly chosen the defiant route. In response to questions from New York Times reporter Jesse McKinley at an appearance in Syracuse last month, the governor said, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
For this transgression, Chris Cuomo deserves every bit of ridicule thrown his way. Folks who work in journalism make a decision: We’re here to cover politicians and their consiglieres, not to work with them. The next time Chris Cuomo appears on air, he should disclose all of his advice-dispensing activities and beg for the forgiveness of his colleagues and peers.