CNN suspended anchor Chris Cuomo indefinitely because he helped his brother, former Governor Andrew Cuomo, try to combat charges of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching.
Journalists are asked by their employers to disclose conflicts of interest. If you write a story about your family, or have a financial interest in something that you are writing about, you have to disclose it.
Look at this column by Gail Collins in the New York Times. It is an opinion piece not a news story.
Dec. 1, 2021
Welcome to Cuomo-free America.
Well, at least temporarily.
We’ve been working up to this for a while. Andrew Cuomo was, of course, compelled to resign the governorship of New York in August, approximately one second ahead of likely impeachment for what we can perhaps describe as verbal harassment and pathological grabbiness.
Now Chris Cuomo has been suspended by CNN, where he is a top-rated news host. There’s no question that he was trying to help with his brother’s defense even as he was assuring his viewers and bosses that it was more or less hands off.
(In a happier time, when everything wasn’t so depressing, we might have noted that “hands off” would also have been a policy that could have saved Andrew Cuomo’s career.)
Our job today is to decide how bad Chris Cuomo’s Andrew-related activities have been. It’s very easy to sympathize with his desire to protect his older brother. Their bond was evident in a series of joint, jibing TV appearances they did, some while Chris was recovering from Covid early last year, quarantined away from his family.
“Rule 1 is never hit a brother when he’s down, and you’re literally in the basement,” the governor pointed out.
The banter went on and on. Including one unfortunate episode in which Chris called Andrew the “love guv.” (At a later date, CNN shared “the very moment” Chris finally emerged from his below-ground exile — which was problematic only in that he’d reportedly been out for days.)
As a journalist, Chris had a terrible conflict of interest when Andrew fell into headline-making disgrace. The obvious answer was to keep clear, steeling himself against a very natural desire to protect a brother and a very Cuomo-like impulse to take control of the situation.
Now we know how he really responded.
“On it,” he said, when his brother’s most powerful staff member, Melissa DeRosa, asked him to find out from his “sources” whether Politico was working on a new damaging Andrew story.
In a more perfect world, this sort of temptation wouldn’t have come up because Andrew would have fiercely ordered his younger brother to stay away from the whole mess. Directed the staff to leave Chris alone and maybe organized a family intervention. It does say something that our former governor didn’t try to protect him.
Almost everything in this saga goes back to family. You have to wonder if the brothers’ impulse to take action — even action that objective minds would instantly discern as a really bad idea — is a response to the defects of Dad, who was once nicknamed “Hamlet on the Hudson.”
Mario Cuomo, in a moment that must be seared into the minds of his offspring, was expected to fly to New Hampshire and file, at the very last minute, for the presidential primary in 1991. But he left two chartered planes waiting at the Albany airport, claiming that he needed to go back to work with the Republicans on a state budget.
Not surprising that his sons are action-oriented. Not necessarily always to their advantage.
Chris Cuomo told state investigators — lately state investigators seem to be omnipresent in family life — that he was obsessed with thinking of ways to protect Andrew, and the question of how he should protect himself “just never occurred to me.” Hmm.
One of the things Chris was worried about was an article he had heard Ronan Farrow was preparing for The New Yorker. His paranoia certainly made sense. If you had ever once for a single second worried that a prominent member of your family was pathologically grabby with female employees, Ronan Farrow is one of the last people in the world you want around asking questions.
What did Chris do? Well, according to his own testimony to state officials, he went poking around — sort of like an investigative reporter — trying to find out what Farrow was up to. It was precisely what he’d promised not to do.
“Please let me help with the prep,” he told DeRosa around the time when the team was getting ready for the gubernatorial defense. Many, many text messages and email chains followed.
Then he took on Anna Ruch, who had accused Andrew of trying to kiss and fondle her at a wedding reception in 2019. “I have a lead on the wedding girl,” he reported to DeRosa.
The story, as Chris told it, was that a friend called to express concern that said wedding girl had been “put up to it.” This is very possibly true — the part about the call, that is. If somebody claimed your brother had made inappropriate moves at a public event, a pal or two might let you know they were on his side. Even if they secretly … wondered.
One big problem with Chris’s reporting is that it’s at best pretty useless. And at worst — which is also in reality — pretty wrong.
Where do you draw the line between journalism and family? Maybe at the point where you, the prominent news anchor, start thinking that your job is running down rumors for your brother.