CNN host Chris Cuomo participated in strategy conference calls with his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as he faced allegations of sexual harassment, with the sessions including members of the governor’s staff.
The Washington Post first reported on the calls, and CNN confirmed that Cuomo had participated.
A network spokesperson said, “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.”
Cuomo will not face disciplinary action, according to a network source.
According to the Post, quoting unnamed sources, Cuomo recommended that his brother take a defiant position and remain in office, and even used the phrase “cancel culture” as one rationale to try to weather the allegations.
The New York attorney general is conducting an investigation of the claims from more than a half dozen women. The New York State Assembly also is conducting an investigation. Cuomo has denied the claims, and has said that his comments may have been misinterpreted. At a March 12 press briefing, he also talked of not “bowing to cancel culture.”
After the allegations became public against the governor, with calls for his resignation, Chris Cuomo said on his show that he would not be covering the story on his show, Cuomo Prime Time.
“Obviously, I am aware of what is going on with my brother, and obviously, I cannot cover it because he is my brother,” he told viewers “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. There’s a lot of news that goes on also, so let’s get after that.”
Last spring, Cuomo had his brother on Cuomo Prime Time as a guest, breaking with a network policy that he not interview the New York governor because of the obvious conflict of interest. The network said that they made an exception to the rule, saying that they felt that “Chris speaking with his brother about the challenges of what millions of American families were struggling with was of significant human interest.” Cuomo tested positive for Covid-19 and shared his experiences on air.
Although the Cuomo brothers segments drew criticism and some consternation in journalism circles, the network’s chief Jeff Zucker, in an interview with The New York Times, defended the brothers’ “authenticity and relatability and vulnerability.”
CNN defended Cuomo in March after a report that the New York governor had secured access to testing for family members during the early part of the pandemic. A network spokesperson said, “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.” The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that federal investigators are examining whether the governor gave priority access to close associates and his brother, expanding its probe of how Andrew Cuomo’s administration handled Covid-19 outbreaks in nursing homes.
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