Brian Stelter stopped by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Tuesday night and the timing couldn’t have been much worse for CNN’s in-house media reporter.
The appearance just happened to fall on the same day that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo finally resigned his office following a damning probe outlining the many sexual harassment allegations against him. So naturally, Colbert asked Stelter to weigh in on the drama over at CNN over anchor Chris Cuomo’s role as an informal adviser for his older brother. “Behind closed doors, are people mad at him?” Colbert wanted to know. “Is he in trouble?”
“Some people are mad at him,” Stelter said before making a big show of confirming the latest report from The New York Times that states Chris Cuomo was helping his brother craft his messaging and advising him to resign as recently as the past few days. “I also have a source who says that Chris was on the phone with his brother this week,” he said.
“Is your source Chris Cuomo?” Colbert asked.
“He is not,” Stelter replied. “You’ve got to have boundaries. You’ve got to draw a line.”
“Why? He doesn’t!” Colbert shot back.
“I think he does actually,” Stelter said as the live audience groaned in response.
When Colbert added, incredulously, “Really? What are the boundaries?” Stelter went on to defend his network for basically saying there is no reasonable expectation that the Cuomo brothers wouldn’t speak. The host has been similarly pilloried this week for giving CNN what Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple called a series of “wet kisses” on his Reliable Sources show this past Sunday morning.
But as Colbert pointed out, Chris Cuomo “didn’t talk about his brother once the trouble started,” something Stelter said came down straight from CNN management. “Then why didn’t they rule that way when his brother was on pretty much every night during the COVID crisis?” Colbert asked. “That seems like an odd conflict of rules.”
Stelter would only say that it’s “really complicated,” adding that there is “no page for this” situation in the “journalism ethics book” and that it is “definitely awkward” for CNN.
The same could be said for his unfortunately-timed appearance on The Late Show.