The news that Chris Cuomo has been advising his brother, the governor of New York, on how to counter a barrage of sexual harassment allegations against him is the sort of brazenness that would get the CNN anchor fired if CNN was serious about being a news network and not just another entertainment channel.
While some members of the media are trying to explain away the outrage (“News media is a business. Cuomo just re-upped his contract for many millions per year. CNN ratings aren’t going down bc of this … So life goes on!”tweeted NBC’s Dylan Byers), ordinary New Yorkers deserve to be furious. Chris Cuomo has enabled Andrew Cuomo’s lies and catastrophic missteps for more than a year, helping to mythologize a governor who presided over more than 50,000 COVID-19 deaths. Those lives did not go on.
Thirteen years younger than Andrew, Chris has always been doggedly loyal to the alpha in the family, using his perch whenever he could to forward the governor’s interests.Chris opened his show Thursday night by saying “there are stories out there about me offering my brother advice. Of course I do. This is no revelation” adding that “I can be objective about nearly any topic, but not about my family.” He claimed, absurdly, that “I know where the line is.” But clearly, he did not know where the line is and, just as clearly, CNN doesn’t care.
From the earliest days of the pandemic, Chris lent crucial cover for Andrew, repeatedly tossing softball questions his way on national television as tens of thousands got sick and died from coronavirus. When he went on Cuomo Prime Time, Andrew Cuomo knew he was on home turf: there would be no questions about why he was covering up nursing home deaths, why he kept comparing COVD-19 to the flu or why he delayed a shelter-in-place order for New York City.
Instead, there were jokes and lame banter that CNN was okay with because the ratings were good. Their upwardly mobile viewers were all working from home, watching television even more obsessively than usual. The Cuomo Brothers Hour was a diversion millions could get behind, and it fit in perfectly with the ratings-first approach the news network took under Jeff Zucker, relentlessly promoting Donald Trump in 2015 and 2016 and airing his campaign rallies on live television. Trump was a reality TV character Zucker knew well, and he gave the revanchist showman more airtime than he ever could have hoped for.
Over on Fox, Sean Hannity obliterated whatever line existed between media and politics, offering political advice to Donald Trump and even appearing at one of his campaign rallies. Hannity was unabashedly a functionary of the Trump White House. Fox veered as close to state TV as the United States has ever seen.
And while CNN has not been Andrew Cuomo’s propaganda network, Chris Cuomo has been his propaganda pundit. It’s telling what Chris told Andrew to do after young women went public alleging that the governor had physically and verbally harassed them. “The cable news anchor encouraged his brother to take a defiant position and not to resign from the governor’s office, the people said,” the Post reported. “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.”
Andrew took his brother’s advice, refusing to resign and even lashing out at his accusers and investigators. He invoked “cancel culture,” parroting Trump Republicans.
The governor is facing overlapping state and federal investigations into his alleged conduct against women, including ones who worked for him, and his hiding of nursing home deaths. The State Assembly is mulling impeachment.
Meanwhile, Chris was whispering in Andrew’s ear, doubling up as a CNN personality and special adviser to the governor. Each brother is guilty of an abuse of power. The governor has lied to the public repeatedly during the pandemic and blocked data on Covid deaths from being released to the public. He even covered up structural problems on a bridge named after their father, who was also a governor.
The TV anchor used his influential post at CNN to further all of it. Andrew’s popularity — which he converted into a $5 million book deal — was fueled by those bizarre nightly interviews in the depths of the pandemic. Instead of attempting to ask his brother a single difficult question, Chris gave Andrew an even greater platform to misinform and misdirect. If Andrew survives and manages to win a fourth term, he’ll have, in part, his little brother to thank.