Chris Cuomo Suspended: What Took So Long?

Chris Cuomo at 2016 DNC via Wiki Commons

Chris Cuomo, CNN’s host of Cuomo Prime Time, was suspended on Wednesday after new documents revealed that he was more involved in his brother’s attempts to silence his accusers than previously thought. The revelations came from the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James and opened a new chapter in the fight over CNN’s integrity. Thanks to these documents, it is now clear that Cuomo used his connections as a journalist to monitor his brother’s accusers and keep tabs on the stories other reporters wrote about him. While horrifying in its implications for journalistic ethics, this revelation also requires us to ask a simple but important question. What took so long? 

From the very beginning, Cuomo’s involvement with his brother was a matter of public scrutiny. Even without the allegations against the former governor, a journalist interviewing his brother on air was far from accepted among other reporters. Though Cuomo attempted to defend the interview by arguing that the story in question didn’t involve his brother as a matter of personal accountability, others have rightly pointed out that the story involved state agencies that the former governor had control over. At the very least, the willingness that Cuomo showed to blur the lines between personal interest and journalistic duty should have been a red flag for CNN’s leadership. 

Instead, CNN and its leaders failed to remove Cuomo and apologize for the obvious error temporarily. That is, of course, until the allegations came out.

After allegations against former governor Andrew Cuomo came out, the now controversial anchor explained that he “obviously” couldn’t report on the happenings of his brother due to the conflict of interests therein. However, that had not stopped him previously. Instead, he refrained from discussing the issue altogether, seemingly finding his journalistic integrity when the moment required it. It seemed as though the New York anchor had finally realized that his previous behavior was not going to fly and try to make up for it with decent coverage. If only that were true. 

Instead, a guest essay by Cuomo’s former boss at ABC, Shelley Ross, alleged sexual misconduct against the anchor and that he had grabbed her rear without her consent. Cuomo was seemingly so enthusiastic about it that he allegedly told his former boss, “I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss.” Ross backed up her claim with an email from Cuomo in which he apologized for his conduct seemingly not because it was inappropriate but because her husband was there. 

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The email provided by Shelley Ross to The New York Times

Previous readers of my newsletter will know my thoughts on this, as it was not long after these reports came out that I demanded that CNN fire Cuomo for his conduct, as he was also revealed to be helping his brother defend himself from allegations of sexual harassment. Of course, I did not expect a major news organization to listen, but the fact that it took yet another example of his unethical conduct to get even a suspension is beyond ridiculous. 

The moment Cuomo was accused of sexual misconduct with documented proof should have been the moment he was removed from his position. It should not require the Attorney General of a state to get a news organization to admit that keeping the man giving his brother’s advisor intel on his accusers might not be the best decision. 

It is especially damning that he was using his connections, which he no doubt got from CNN and other news organizations, to monitor journalist Ronan Farrow at the New Yorker, as it reveals how little Cuomo cared for the most basic standards of objective reporting. While absolute, perfect reporting is almost impossible, that does not prevent a reporter from taking basic steps to avoid a conflict of interest. Or, at the very least, avoid getting involved with the scandal itself.

In perhaps an even more pathetic display of his arrogance, Cuomo immediately went on his podcast to describe how much it “hurt” and how “embarrassing” it was for him to be suspended from his show. He then pointed out his previous apologies and the like, seemingly hoping it would be enough, but it’s not. Once a person crosses the line into nepotistic coverage and actively works to silence victims of sexual harassment, there can be no going back. 

Chris Cuomo should have been fired long ago, and I hope that media outlets will be responsible enough to keep him off the air and avoid giving this corrupt con-man anymore credibility to tarnish. That is, of course, if CNN follows through.

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