ALL IN THE FAMILY

12.02.13

Chris Cuomo Defends His CNN Interview With His Brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

A CNN news segment turned into a family reunion when host Chris Cuomo interviewed his older brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But the anchor says he invites the criticism.

As a cohost of CNN’s New Day morning show, Chris Cuomo had every reason to interview New York’s governor Monday about Sunday’s deadly train derailment on the Metro North Hudson line.

And as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s little brother, not to mention the son of longtime governor Mario Cuomo, the younger Cuomo is experienced at negotiating the sometimes awkward issues confronting a journalist who is also a blood relation to powerful politicians.

"What could be more obvious here? They are both named Cuomo!"

“Obviously I did the intv because it was non political, and frankly, I invite the criticism—because it exposes the hollowness of a lot of what is out there,” the 43-year-old Cuomo emailed me after absorbing the predictable reproaches from various ethics cops on Twitter and elsewhere. “Critics say my intv was no diff than any other and then criticize anyway,” he continued. “Think about that. I get the obvious suspicion, but the media has to do better than simply cater to the obvious…and pawn off negativity as a proxy for insight.”

Cuomo, who in the past has had to walk a narrow line, especially when he was the news reader on ABC’s Good Morning America and his big brother was running for governor, added: “Of course, if it were politics, I would not do it.”

The Huffington Post, for one, published a skeptical story about the on-air chat under the headline, “Chris Cuomo’s Interview With His Brother Andrew Raises Eyebrows.” Included were such censorious comments as Salon writer Alex Pareene’s tweet, “call me old fashioned but I feel like CNN ought to have had someone not named Cuomo interview Governor Cuomo” and Xerox marketing executive Ken Ericson’s sarcastic query, “No other journalists available?”

On the other hand, Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren weighed in on Chris Cuomo’s side of the issue, offering a ringing defense of the CNN anchor on her Gretawire blog.

“Maybe it is my background in law,” Van Susteren wrote, “but I have no problem with Chris Cuomo interviewing his brother the NY Governor about the train crash. A conflict of interest is when some vital information is deliberately hidden from the viewer so that the viewer can’t make a decision himself/herself about the content of an interview and the potential for bias. What could be more obvious here? They are both named Cuomo! And if that is not enough…CNN’s Cuomo said ‘Now obviously to those who don’t know, we are family, so we’ve been talking about this a lot.’ ”

Cuomo, naturally, retweeted Van Susteren’s comments.

His interview, by the way, was just as substantive an interrogation about the accident, if not more so, as any of the others his brother did on the morning shows.

“I am good at my job,” Chris emailed. “And believe it or not, i go at everyone the same way.”

There were two notable aspects, however: With his smooth, pancaked face, Chris looks a good deal younger than his 55-year-old brother, whose visage could pass for a topographical map of the Adironacks. Also, he called Andrew “Governor.”

When I asked if that’s his preferred form of address, Chris emailed, “Never. Nor my pop. But I respect the office, especially on tv.”