CNN journalist Chris Cuomo coached his brother, New York governor Andrew Cuomo, on government calls regarding how to respond to the recent allegations that the latter sexually harassed several women.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Chris Cuomo, who anchors CNN’s popular “Cuomo Prime Time,” participated in several conference calls with the Democratic governor’s top aide, communication team, lawyers, and outside advisors to advise Andrew Cuomo, who has been accused of sexual harassment by at least seven women since December 2020. Chris Cuomo encouraged the governor to “take a defiant position” and not resign, and stated that “cancel culture” was a reason to push back against the allegations, sources told The Washington Post.
Chris Cuomo’s participation in the calls constitutes an ethical lapse and conflict of interest by any journalistic standard. Journalists are traditionally prohibited from engaging in political activism, which includes providing advice to governors. Journalists are also not supposed to interview family and friends because it could hamper their ability to impartially report on a given topic. CNN told The Washington Post that Chris Cuomo would not be disciplined for participating in the government calls.
“Chris has not been involved in CNN’s extensive coverage of the allegations against Governor Cuomo — on air or behind the scenes,” a CNN spokesperson told IndieWire in an email. “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.”
Chris Cuomo addressed The Washington Post report during his Thursday night show.
“When my brother’s situation became turbulent, being looped into calls with other friends of his and advisers that did include some of his staff, I understand why that was a problem for CNN,” Chris Cuomo said, per Deadline. “It will not happen again. It was a mistake because I put my colleagues here who I believe are the best in the business in a bad spot. I never intended for that. I would never intend for that, and I am sorry for that.”
Chris Cuomo previously addressed the allegations against his brother on his CNN show in March and noted that he was unable to report on the issue because the two are related; other CNN reporters, including John King and Jake Tapper, have covered the allegations against Andrew Cuomo for the news organization.
That didn’t stop Chris Cuomo from interviewing his brother on CNN when Andrew Cuomo was being viewed in a more favorable public light. Though Chris Cuomo has been barred from reporting on his brother since joining CNN in 2013, the news organization allowed him to interview the New York governor six times when the state was the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020. The Cuomo brothers’ interviews primarily centered on the brothers riffing with one another and discussing their personal lives, with occasional mentions of the ongoing pandemic.
The duo’s 2020 interviews caused controversy among media watchdogs and columnists, especially after the allegations against Andrew Cuomo began to make headlines: Poynter’s Tom Jones wrote in March that CNN’s credibility took a hit due to the decision, while The Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan argued that the governor should’ve never been interviewed by the CNN anchor. CNN told the Associated Press in February that the ban on Chris Cuomo interviewing his brother was temporarily lifted because their conversations were of “significant human interest.”
Chris and Andrew Cuomo have mutually benefited from their high-profile statuses in journalism and politics in various ways. The Washington Post reported in March that the CNN anchor was among several Cuomo family members who received special access to COVID testing in 2020. Chris Cuomo stated that he thought his brother was “the best politician in the country” during one of their 2020 interviews, according to Thursday’s report in The Washington Post.