On Monday, the New York Attorney General’s Office released documents showing that star host Chris Cuomo used sources he’d picked up in his professional career to seek information about the women who accused his brother former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. It’s the latest in a series of revelations that reveal just how deeply involved Chris Cuomo has been in his brother’s political fight and it begs an appallingly obvious question: Why is Chris Cuomo still working at CNN?
The former governor’s top aide Melissa DeRosa was in frequent communication with Chris Cuomo, documents reveal, and they discussed media reports about the sexual harassment lawsuits being filed against Andrew Cuomo and even messaging for the then-governor to use in response. “Please let me help with the prep,” Chris Cuomo told DeRosa, even telling her that he had some info on “the wedding girl” — Anna Ruch, the woman who accused Andrew Cuomo of attempting to kiss her at a wedding.
This is in addition to the already-revealed “strategy calls” Chris Cuomo took part in along with his brother on how to respond to the scandal that upended Andrew Cuomo’s political career. These aren’t minor slip-ups. They’re enormous.
CNN admittedly faced an enormous conflict of interest. Andrew Cuomo was one of the country’s most high-profile politicians and he faced a scandal — that means big ratings for cable news. But his brother is one of the network’s most popular stars. So CNN came up with what sure looked like a reasonable solution: Chris couldn’t cover Andrew’s stories for the network and he couldn’t interact with his brother’s staff.
Not a bad system on paper, but Chris Cuomo didn’t follow it. He was involved in his brother’s scandal, speaking to the staff and mixing his role as a brother and a broadcaster. “Being a journalist and a brother to a politician is unique, and a unique challenge, and I have a unique responsibility to balance those roles,” he told his viewers last spring. He did have a responsibility, and an extremely difficult one at that. Nobody would be jealous of the sort of balance he had to strike. But nobody can deny that he’s failed at it spectacularly.
That may be very understandable, for a human perspective. All of us would be tempted to help a family member in a tough spot with whatever resources we had at our disposal. But if Chris Cuomo felt that strongly about defending his brother, he should have left CNN so that he could work alongside him honestly. But he tried to have it both ways, and not only broke his network’s rules, but violated journalistic ethics and the trust of his viewers. He should resign. If he doesn’t, CNN should cut ties.
There is a lot of professional handwringing about “trust in the news” out there, as many Americans harbor conspiracies about some sort of evil agenda in mainstream news outlets. Christians, in particular, seem to hold “the media” in extra high disdain as “anti-Christian.” Those concerns aren’t always warranted, but it does mean mainstream news outlets need to hold themselves to an extra high standard of objectivity to be above reproach. Any viewer who sees Chris Cuomo continuing to cover news after helping his former-governor brother deal with sexual assault allegations won’t see objectivity, but instead the operations of a ruling class that protects its own. CNN has the opportunity to prove that they put journalistic integrity above celebrity. They should seize it.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's senior editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.