Did Chris Cuomo cross the line in advising his brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, during the sexual harassment scandal? That’s a question on everyone’s minds following Andrew Cuomo’s resignation on Tuesday, amid reports that CNN anchor Chris Cuomo had been part of his brother’s inner circle dealing with the backlash.
In the investigation released by New York State Attorney General Letitia James said Chris Cuomo had “counseled him to express contrition after the press published Ms. Bennett’s allegations,” which was as early as February.
James’ report also suggested that it was, “revealing and consistent with the Executive Chamber’s overall approach that, when faced with allegations of sexual harassment brought against the Governor, the inner circle of confidantes brought in to control and direct the response,” including his brother Chris Cuomo.
With such direct involvement in the allegations, many critics are calling for CNN to force Chris Cuomo to step down, as well.
On Monday, the day before Andrew Cuomo resigned, it was revealed that Chris Cuomo had been barred from discussing any part of the sexual harassment investigation into his brother on his CNN show, Cuomo Prime Time.
Brian Stelter, anchor for CNN’s Reliable Sources, released a report on the show stating that upper management had told Cuomo that, “he can’t talk about his brother on TV.”
Speaking on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday night, Stelter said only that it was, “complicated,” and defended Chris Cuomo’s boundaries by stating that, “if we open the ‘Journalism Ethics Book,’ there’s no page on this.”
“There’s a wide range of opinions about this,” Stelter continued, with people he’s spoken to at CNN varying between “ticked off at Chris” and “you can’t pick who your family members are.”
Other than attempting to keep Chris Cuomo out of the conversation, CNN has stood firmly by his side. Releasing a statement for the news organization, a CNN spokesperson reiterated that, “Chris has not been involved in CNN’s extensive coverage of the allegations against Governor Cuomo—on air or behind the scenes.”
“However,” the statement continued, “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.”
Apologizing on air last Thursday for his involvement, Chris Cuomo said that it was a mistake, and that it would never happen again. “I put my colleagues here, who I believe are the best in the business, in a bad spot,” said Cuomo. “I never intended for that, I would never intend for that, and I am sorry for that.”
Despite this, many believe that his involvement in coaching his brother’s responses to media demonstrated that Chris Cuomo has an inability to be impartial.
“How does CNN still employ Chris Cuomo?” asked Ken Klippenstein, an investigative reporter at The Intercept.
In The Washington Post, opinion columnist Erik Wemple called on CNN to investigate Cuomo, stating that, “CNN flouted journalistic ethics in spring 2020 when it allowed Chris Cuomo to host his brother about a dozen times in flattering gab sessions,” before pulling his coverage of his brother once the allegations were released.
Speaking to BuzzFeed News, many anonymous CNN employees have the opinion that, “[CNN President] Jeff [Zucker] has made it clear that he has Chris’s back no matter what.”
Another former CNN employee called it “emblematic” of how CNN operates. “The more prominent you are there… the less the rules and discipline apply to you,” the former CNN employee said. “That’s been a gripe people have complained about forever.”
Currently, Chris Cuomo and his family are on an undisclosed vacation, regularly scheduled by the network. As of Wednesday, Aug. 11, Cuomo had not made a statement regarding his brother’s resignation, or his position as a CNN anchor.