December 6, 2021

The character flaw that ended Chris Cuomo’s time at CNN is the same one that took down Andrew Cuomo as governor of New York.

That attribute? Arrogance, the entitled belief that the rules don’t necessarily apply to them, the misguided assumption that just because they do good in some parts of their jobs means they can be excused for ill-behavior in other parts.

Quite often, Chris Cuomo was very good at anchoring his prime-time cable news show. He certainly allowed his liberal views to ooze through in his commentary and coverage, but those who regularly watched his show likely shared those views and didn’t mind. Cuomo could be well-informed, engaging, charismatic, passionate and quick on his feet — all of the qualities that make a watchable TV host. That’s why his show had solid ratings.

But when multiple women accused Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, Chris believed he could abandon his journalistic ethics to defend his brother. The problem was Chris used his position as a powerful journalist to dig up information on what other journalists were working on when it came to reports about his brother. In addition, he misled viewers and his employers about how involved he was in helping his brother’s defense. And he offered media relations strategies against ugly allegations. All while continuing to hold one of the most important positions at one of the country’s leading media outlets.

If Chris wanted to help his brother, he should’ve taken a leave from the network and been totally transparent about why. But he could not serve both his employer and his brother. When you’re a journalist, you have an obligation to the viewer.

Instead, Chris allowed his arrogance to believe he could straddle the line of being a good journalist and good brother. Because of that arrogance, he believed there was nothing wrong with that. When called out for it, he was defiant and seemed irritated with anyone who criticized him, as if they didn’t understand words like “family” and “loyalty.” How dare you question me, seemed to be his stance. It’s the same arrogance that Andrew had in convincing himself that he did nothing wrong around women. He remained defiant about that even as he resigned.

It was arrogance that derailed both of their careers.

But, in the case of Chris, was there something else in addition to advising his brother?

The New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum, John Koblin and Jodi Kantor are reporting that “Debra S. Katz, a prominent employment lawyer, informed CNN of a client with an allegation of sexual misconduct against Chris Cuomo.” That client is believed to have worked with Cuomo at ABC.

As the Times reported, it’s not known if that allegation had anything to do with CNN’s dismissal of Cuomo over the weekend. Katz also represents one of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s accusers. The Times reported, “Ms. Katz said that her client ‘came forward because she was disgusted by Chris Cuomo’s on-air statements in response to the allegations made against his brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.’”

It should be noted that part of CNN’s statement about Cuomo’s firing included this line: “When new allegations came to us this week, we took them seriously, and saw no reason to delay taking immediate action.”

Steven Goldberg, a representative of Chris Cuomo, put out a statement that said, “These apparently anonymous allegations are not true. To the extent that they were sent to CNN to negate what Chris Cuomo told his audience, he fully stands by his on-air statements about his connection to these issues, both professionally and in a profoundly personal way.”

According to The Wall Street Journal’s Benjamin Mullin and Joe Flint, CNN boss Jeff Zucker originally backed Cuomo, but the attorney general’s report might have changed that. In a text to the Journal, a representative of Chris Cuomo said Cuomo was in “regular contact” with Zucker and “there were no secrets” about his support of his brother.

CNN responded with a statement that said, “(Cuomo) has made a number of accusations that are patently false. This reinforces why he was terminated for violating our standards and practices, as well as his lack of candor.”

And, as the Times’ Jodi Kantor tweeted, “*Both* Cuomo brothers were unseated in the wake of #metoo allegations from younger coworkers.”

Why now and CNN’s coverage

Credit CNN for not shying away from Cuomo’s firing. In particular, Brian Stelter’s “Reliable Sources” media program treated the story like it should as the biggest media news of the week.

Stelter asked the key question, which is why was Cuomo fired now when CNN knew for months that Cuomo was working behind the scenes with his brother and his brother’s advisers? (The Washington Post broke that story back in May.)

Well, for starters, apparently CNN didn’t know how involved Chris was until the attorney general’s report. And also credit CNN for hiring an outside firm to investigate the whole matter.

Meanwhile, Stelter framed Chris’ downfall as a “death by a thousand cuts” — meaning Chris seemed to be causing one headache after another for the network. Stelter is right. Chris’ credibility, as well as CNN as long as they kept him, had already been shot among some viewers. The network just couldn’t risk anything else.

CNN bungled some of this, but in the end, the network did the right thing. It parted ways with Cuomo.

Cuomo was ‘livid’

Chris Cuomo put out a statement after his firing, saying this is not how he wanted his time at CNN to end. He also thanked his staff. But, according to The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Cartwright, Blake Montgomery and Zachary Petrizzo, Cuomo was “livid” over his firing.

The Daily Beast reported that one CNN insider told them, “Finally. Chris was a toxic and distracting presence. The network did the right thing.”

What’s next for CNN?

Suddenly, CNN has a really big open chair. The 9 p.m. Eastern prime-time slot is one of the most valuable pieces of real estate on cable news. So, who replaces Cuomo?

Michael Smerconish will fill in this week, although CNN had scheduled Smerconish to fill in before it fired Cuomo. Smerconish sat in Cuomo’s chair in the past when Cuomo has been on vacation.

As Stelter noted, there is a game of musical chairs going on with cable news. Rachel Maddow will leave her MSNBC prime-time show sometime in 2022 to concentrate on other projects, Brian Williams just left his 11 p.m. Eastern show and Fox News’ 7 p.m. opinion show has used a rotation of guest hosts as opposed to naming one permanent host.

Someone wrote to me suggesting that maybe Williams could replace Cuomo. After embellishing his role in a helicopter episode in Iraq, Williams repaired his damaged reputation on MSNBC. But I’m not sure you want to follow up one guy who crossed the ethical lines with someone else who crossed the line.

Former CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin posted an Instagram video saying CNN should put a woman in the 9 p.m. spot.

“Not me, I’ve moved on,” Baldwin said. “But there are plenty of brilliant women they can choose from.”

Baldwin is right.

Most powerful interview

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., plays a recording of a death threat left on her voicemail in the wake of anti-Islamic comments made last week by Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The most powerful interview of the Sunday shows was Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) joining CNN’s “State of the Union” and anchor Jake Tapper, to discuss, among other topics, the death threats she has received of late.

Many of those threats have come in the wake of the Islamophobic comments made by Colorado Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert. Omar called Boebert’s comments “shocking and unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy defended Boebert, saying, “She apologized publicly, she apologized personally.” But apparently the phone call between the two ended badly and McCarthy has not addressed Boebert’s specific comments.

Omar told Tapper, “McCarthy is a liar and a coward. He doesn’t have the ability to condemn the kind of bigoted Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric that are being trafficked by a member of his conference.”

After being asked why McCarthy doesn’t have the ability to do that, Omar said, “Because this is who they are. And we have to be able to stand up to them. And we have to push them to reckon with the fact that their party right now is normalizing anti-Muslim bigotry.”

Speaking of Boebert, Washington Post Kathleen Parker writes about Boebert and Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene in “The mean girls in Congress just can’t quit each other.”

Parker writes, “Well, dang, ya’ll, what’s in the ladies-lounge coffee over there? With all the teeth-baring and chain-yanking, somebody must have spiked it with testosterone. Before you know it, they’ll be wearing animal headgear and breastplates and breaching the U.S. Capitol.”

Another strong comment

Here’s another notable moment from “State of The Union.” Tapper asked Dr. Anthony Fauci what Fauci made of Sen. Ron Johnson’s accusation that Fauci is “overhyping” COVID-19 and said he did the same with AIDS.

Fauci said, “Jake, how do you respond to something as preposterous as that? Overhyping AIDS? It’s killed over 750,000 Americans and 36 million people worldwide. How do you overhype that? Overhyping COVID? It’s already killed 780,000 Americans and over 5 million people worldwide. So, I don’t have any clue of what he’s talking about.”

A legendary American politician dies

Bob Dole in 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Bob Dole, the longtime Republican senator from Kansas who lost the 1996 presidential election to Bill Clinton, has died. He was 98. An official cause hasn’t been given, but Dole was diagnosed with lung cancer last February.

He was a giant in American politics, having served in the Senate from 1969 to 1996. Dole was, at various times, the Senate majority and minority leader.

Here are some of the notable pieces about Dole following his death:

A grim front page

Here was the front page of Sunday’s Detroit Free Press following the horrific school shooting that killed four and wounded seven others at Oxford High School in Michigan:

(Courtesy: Detroit Free Press)

Where’s Lara Logan?

Lara Logan hasn’t been booked on Fox News and her show hasn’t appeared on Fox Nation since her controversial comments (on Fox News) last Monday comparing Dr. Anthony Fauci to Nazi doctor ​​Josef Mengele.

I wrote last week, “What has happened to Lara Logan?”

Appearing on “Reliable Sources,” Goucher College media studies professor and former Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik said, “My theory is this: This was someone who was a big, big star and an outstanding journalist on the greatest, most important TV journalism production in the history of the media in ‘60 Minutes.’ She’s no longer relevant. She has moved to the margins and she has adopted this playbook that Donald Trump used — and Lauren Boebert and people on the far right use — of being super transgressive to get attention to themselves.”

Zurawik compared it to drug addiction, saying they have to go further and further and uglier and nastier to continue to remain relevant.

“It’s not sad,” Zurawik said. “It’s disgraceful.”

A story you need to read

Many of you have heard of Stephen Glass. He was the journalist who fabricated many of the articles he wrote from 1995 to 1998 for The New Republic. His story is one of the most famous plagiarism cases in journalism history and it was turned into a rather good movie called “Shattered Glass,” starring Hayden Christensen as Glass.

But many of you likely don’t know what happened to Glass after his disgraceful exit from journalism.

My former Tampa Bay Times colleague Bill Adair, the founder of PolitiFact and now the Knight Professor of Journalism & Public Policy at Duke University, has written an absolutely compelling story for Air Mail about Glass. Adair told me he has been working on this story for a couple of years.

Here it is: “Loving Lies.”

Carve out some time to read it. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Media tidbits

(Courtesy: NBC News)

  • “Now Tonight with Joshua Johnson” will debut tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern on NBC News Now — NBC News’ streaming service. The hour show will air Monday through Friday and look at the big stories of the day with Johnson and guests reporting on and analyzing the news.
  • NBC News will air a special series this week called “Rescuing the Rainforest.” It will investigate the devastating destruction of rainforests and how it’s impacting the planet. The series will air across various NBC News platforms, including the “Today” show, the “NBC Nightly News,” MSNBC, and NBC News Now. The yearlong investigation is in partnership with the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network.
  • The San Francisco Chronicle’s Rachel Swan with “Chronicle photographer robbed at gunpoint while on assignment in West Oakland.”
  • Writing for The Washington Post, Daryl Austin with “The vicious 150-year rivalry between Utah’s two biggest newspapers.”

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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