On Monday night, Chris Cuomo said he "obviously" couldn't cover brother Gov. Andrew Cuomo's coronavirus and sexual misconduct controversies. But during the height of the coronavirus crisis, CNN "happily assented" to allowing Chris Cuomo to turn his Cuomo Prime Time show into a "buddy comedy co-starring his brother" -- even though some issues now plaguing the New York governor were raised last spring, says Jack Mirkinson. "Never mind that tens of thousands of people were dying on Andrew’s watch; that people in nursing homes and prisons were being left to perish; that a steady chorus of critics was pointing out the grave flaws in the governor’s handling of the pandemic," says Mirkinson. "All of these issues are highly political and controversial, and would seem to be exactly the sort of thing that would render Andrew Cuomo out of bounds for his journalist brother. But no, Chris eagerly allowed Andrew to launder his reputation—to bolster what Alex Pareene has aptly described as the 'TV character' version of himself—and CNN went along for the ride." Mirkinson adds: "It’s a near certainty that the governor’s primetime family squabbles helped him get that International Emmy Award. Now that things are not going so well for Andrew Cuomo, though, it appears that basic journalistic ethics are back in town. Suddenly, he is verboten for Chris to discuss. But principles like that are not worth much if they can be discarded when you and your bosses feel like it. Andrew Cuomo is the exact same person in the exact same position he was in last year. The issues swirling around him have been issues for a very long time. But for months, CNN felt like it had a ratings and entertainment hit on its hands, and decided that it was more worth it to keep the fun going than to cover Andrew Cuomo critically. That decision was always terrible, but it appears even more disastrous now."
Chris Cuomo's statement was all just a little too convenient and slippery: "One of Chris Cuomo’s defenses when he was criticized last spring was that his treatment of his brother wasn’t all fluff: He really did ask him newsy questions — like whether he might run for president," says Margaret Sullivan. "And, of course, the ratings were hard to argue with: Cuomo Prime Time more than doubled its year-over-year viewership for a period last spring, shortly after the host’s positive diagnosis was announced...I could almost get behind that reasoning if it didn’t try to employ journalistic sleight-of-hand: Now you see the ban, now you don’t. If it was acceptable to discuss issues of life and death last spring, it ought to be acceptable to take up serious subjects now. If it was journalistically inappropriate from 2013 through 2019 for Cuomo to interview Cuomo, then that should have been the case in early 2020, too. And if last spring’s fraternizing was really intended all along to be a short-lived, term-limited exception to a long-standing rule, then that should have been made abundantly explicit to CNN’s viewers. That sounds like the network’s situational ethics masquerading as transparency. Granted, it’s not reasonable for viewers (or media critics) to demand that Chris Cuomo hold his own brother’s feet to the fire over mishandling covid or over sexual harassment claims. That’s why the original rule made sense. CNN established a reasonable Cuomo-to-Cuomo policy back in 2013. It’s clear now, if it wasn’t fully clear before, that network brass should have resisted temptation and stuck with it."
Chris Cuomo showed a shocking disdain for the intelligence of viewers and casual observers alike: "Who are the suckers meant to swallow this line hook, line, and sinker? Who believes a journalistic tenant exists which allows someone's brother to come on television to bask in success and raise political power, but forbids someone's brother to come on and face the music?" says Kyle Koster of Chris Cuomo's statement. "Gov. Andrew Cuomo's presence on Cuomo Primetime was ubiquitous during the first few months of the COVID-19 crisis, running concurrent to his process of writing a book about his leadership during that time which has aged like stale beer. On a human level, one understands the choice Chris is making. And there's earnest debate to be had over if he should be the one asking questions of this gravity given his personal relationship. Candidly, almost every person in media would make the same choice he did if given the opportunity. Which is why CNN never should have allowed such a ranging conflict of interest to manifest in the first place. It put everyone in a bad situation. The network. The anchor. The governor. And for what? The immediate returns of some people delighting in seeing a pair of brothers get really familiar and swap jokes, zingers, and stories about their famous father? It's honestly a shocking misstep."
Suddenly, the news is less family-friendly, rules now apply, and exceptions can’t be made: "Really, the only fair thing to do here is to allow Younger Cuomo to continue the pseudo-reality show he started last Spring when he was quarantining in his basement and have him interview not only his brother but turn it into an entire family fair," says Shannon Melero. "Set up some cameras, get all of Elder Cuomo’s daughters back from wherever they are, retrieve Mother Cuomo and the ghost of Father Cuomo, and have a long chat. This chat, of course, would be a distraction. Simultaneously, the New York Attorney General’s office mounts an investigation gathering bulletproof evidence that will determine whether or not Andrew Cuomo can sustain a run for any other high office once his term as governor comes to an end."