By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

CNN needs to punish Chris Cuomo severely — and to consider firing him

Chris Cuomo

I’ve been defending CNN’s Chris Cuomo ever since we learned that he had been advising his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, about how to respond to allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

It’s not that I like his program especially; I don’t. It’s that the misguided decision to let Chris host Andrew during the early days of the COVID pandemic was more a failing by management than it was something that could be blamed on Chris, and that it wasn’t fair to criticize him for acting like a brother.

No more. Monday’s revelations show that Chris Cuomo went beyond giving his brother advice, and even went beyond strategizing with other members of Andrew Cuomo’s team. According to the newly released documents, Chris Cuomo abused his position at CNN, and for that he needs to pay a steep price — maybe a long suspension, maybe termination.

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“How in the world does Chris Cuomo survive this?” asks Tom Jones of Poynter, taking note of the sordid details:

According to documents released Monday by the New York attorney general’s office, Chris used his media sources to seek out information about women who accused his brother of sexual misconduct. He then relayed some of that information to his brother’s top advisers.

Writing in The Atlantic, David A. Graham — who believes that Chris Cuomo should resign or be fired — offered this:

When Chris Cuomo simply offered advice to staff members, he failed to observe the rules CNN had set for his private behavior. But by gathering information from “sources” and passing it to his brother’s staff, Cuomo committed the more egregious step of directly mixing the journalistic work of calling sources and gathering information with his personal, familial commitments. He was wise not to go further into the realm of “oppo research” [something Chris told investigators he did not do], but he still went far beyond the bounds of propriety.

Chris Cuomo hosts an opinionated talk show that is only peripherally tied to journalism. But as Graham notes, he does, in fact, act as a journalist, and people are going to return his calls when he tells them that he’s working on a story. His behavior violated multiple rules of “The Elements of Journalism,” including reporting the truth, maintaining independence from those we cover and serving as an independent monitor of power.

I tuned in Cuomo’s show Monday at 9 p.m. to see whether he’d be on and if he’d address it. There he was, but he made no mention of the revelations — not at the beginning, not at the end.

I’ll give him this much — he seemed every bit his normal self, even though he had to know his career was hanging in the balance.

CNN seems to be taking the new allegations seriously. “The thousands of pages of additional transcripts and exhibits that were released today by the NY Attorney General deserve a thorough review and consideration,” CNN said in a statement. “We will be having conversations and seeking additional clarity about their significance as they relate to CNN over the next several days.”

The next step is to act. I doubt that we’ll see Chris Cuomo in the anchor chair tonight. The question is whether we’ll ever see him there again — or should.

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  1. Marcus J Breen

    “BLOOD IS THINKER THAN WATER” and career ambitions it appears. Chris Cuomo cold not help himself.

    CNN should ask him to leave and be done with the old school political appointments of dead white men influencing journalism (Cuomo the senior was a brilliant politician, the sons, not so much, but good at coat tail holding… and the Vanderbuilts…). Let’s get back to meritocracy – at least!

    Your opinion Dan on Chris Cuomo not doing journalism at CNN is a bit of a stretch, as he did some stellar interviews of outrage… as a lawyer.

  2. Dick Pirozzolo

    I’m sure Hannity and Tucker Carlson will be horrified!

    • Steve Ross

      I’ve never liked Mario, Andrew, or Chris so I’m generally biased against them. Good talkers, good grifters… middling leaders.

      But I was furious that CNN would showcase Andrew, who never did better than a middling job on COVID and who lied about COVID-19 deaths in NYC. Yet CNN held him up as a model to follow, even when all of New England, New Mexico, Chicago, and West Coast states were doing better by CDC and other compilations.

      I note churlishly that George Arwady in Springfield did not showcase his daughter, who was doing a fantastic job in Chicago, for instance.

  3. Lex

    Good piece, Dan. I said on social media yesterday that Cuomo should have been fired by sundown. I also said that if either of my brothers ever got elected governor and then started playing grab-ass with the help, they were on their own as far as I was concerned.

    Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!


  4. Dan Kennedy

    Steve, I revered Mario Cuomo, even though I understand that his accomplishments didn’t match his lofty rhetoric. Andrew is pretty terrible, and, sadly, I guess Chris is, too.

    • Steve Ross

      Living in NJ and working in NYC, I loathed Mario. Just a few reasons:

      1. Talked anti-bank but sabotaged any housing relief that would reduce property values and thus pit bank mortgage equity in even minor peril.

      2. Used Port Authority as piggy bank.

      3. While NJ commuters into NYC ( 0.8% of all NY taxpayers but paid over 3% of all ny tax revenue), demonized NJ

      4. Sabotaged water pollution efforts.

      I could go on…and on… and on.

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