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Cable News

Please, Fuck Off: Chris Cuomo

The fact that he's not being fired for his latest unethical behavior says so much about the world of cable news.

Chris Cuomo teases his brother New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on CNN.
Chris Cuomo teases his brother New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on CNN.
YouTube/ CNN

Earlier today the Washington Post reported that CNN anchor Chris Cuomo took part in strategy calls advising his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on how to navigate the multiple credible allegations of sexual assault and harassment levied against him.

Per the Post, emphasis mine:

Cuomo, one of the network’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, according to the people familiar with the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private sessions.

The calls occurred earlier this year, when a growing number of claims that Andrew Cuomo made inappropriate comments or touched women without their permission had escalated into a political crisis for the three-term governor.

The cable news anchor encouraged his brother to take a defiant position and not to resign from the governor’s office, the people 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.

It’s apt that the Post referred to Cuomo as “one of the network’s top stars,” because that’s what he is. Like almost every cable news anchor, he is talent. He’s an entertainer, a showman, and yeah, a star. He is not a journalist. Sure, Cuomo likes to play one from time to time, in the various kayfabe skits his job requires him to put on, and has been relatively successful at convincing many members of the public that he is one. His favorite strategy to do this is bringing on a guest on his show that he knows will be hostile — someone like Rick Santorum, for instance — and then raking them over the coals like he’s just snorted a line of coke cut with Walter Cronkite’s ashes.

Performances like this make Cuomo look great. Here he is, duking it out with a man who is clearly a slimeball — his bronzer less expertly applied, his teeth less white, his views so clearly abhorrent — that there’s no way Cuomo won’t come off as a hero. Santorum, meanwhile, gets a primetime slot with an average of 645,000 viewers in which to express whichever flavor of racism or bigotry he’s decided to stay relevant with that week. Both men know this is the deal, and it’s great TV! If you’re a passive consumer of cable news, as most of those 645,000 are, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Cuomo was a righteous, trustworthy, honorable journalist.

This is not what Cuomo is. Cuomo is an unethical piece of shit. He has proven this repeatedly over the past year. It was unethical for him to use his connections to secretly get access to COVID testing when the rest of New York was being told there were no tests available. It was unethical for him to do a series of softball interviews with his brother early on in the pandemic, when Andrew was behind the scenes harassing his staff and covering up a wave of deaths in nursing homes run by his government. And it was wildly unethical for him to address the sexual harassment allegations against Andrew on the air without disclosing that he was advising his brother behind the scenes about how to deal with those allegations.

Some of these things happened during the height of the pandemic, and Cuomo did just have Santorum on to play whipping boy recently, so maybe you’d be forgiven for giving Chris another shot. But after today’s news, there’s really nothing left to say. Cuomo is not a journalist, and if the network wanted to treat him like one, he would have been fired.

Instead, CNN said in a statement to the Post that Cuomo will not even be disciplined:

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.

In other words: this is no big deal. And it’s not! CNN knows that Cuomo isn’t a journalist and will never be a journalist, and they don’t expect him to act like one. This is, at most, mildly embarrassing for the people who do PR for the network, and it’s already being smoothed over by CNN’s claim that Cuomo is nobly recusing himself from investigations into his brother because he couldn’t be objective. (It’s worth noting that Allison Gollust, one of the people doing the smoothing over at CNN also used to be Andrew Cuomo’s communications director.) That’s how much objectivity matters to Chris Cuomo and CNN — so much that he won’t even attempt it on his show, because Andrew is in trouble, and family comes first. To be fair, I wouldn’t actually expect Chris not to speak personally to Andrew about this situation— families with professional integrity rarely build political dynasties. But it’s still shocking that Cuomo didn’t even try to hide his participation, chatting openly with Andrew’s staff and, if the Post is correct, basically calling the “cancel culture” play that the governor made in his combative press conference addressing the allegations. He knew he’d get away with it!

It’s all too easy, and you can see why: Cuomo Prime Time was the number one broadcast in the coveted 25-54 demographic in the first quarter of 2021. That shit is gold! And you can guess what’s coming next: in the next few days, Cuomo will play his part. Santorum or one of his ilk will be back on the show, and Cuomo will savage him again. If I had to take a wild swing, I’d predict a “tough but fair” grilling of someone like Mike Pompeo in the next few weeks, as the former Secretary of State continues to feel out his chances for the 2024 GOP nomination. Cuomo’s bookers are surely already hard at work. After all, there’s great TV to make, and Chris Cuomo is still a star.