CNN’s Chris Cuomo was back on the air Monday night after a week’s vacation and, surprisingly, he did talk about the situation involving his brother, Andrew, who is resigning as governor of New York after being accused by many women of inappropriate touching and comments. The allegations were deemed credible by the New York attorney general.
In the days after the attorney general’s investigation, Chris had avoided talking about his brother, even after it was learned he had been a part of the team helping Andrew strategize a defense against the accusations. It was a major conflict of interest, but even Monday, Chris attempted to justify and defend his actions in a brief commentary near the end of his “Cuomo Primetime” show.
He started by offering thanks to those who have supported him and shown concern. He said there were “a lot of people feeling a lot of hurt” and that it was his hope that everyone involved would get to “a better place.” Cuomo then repeated how it’s not easy being from a famous political family and he could not have imagined this situation.
Then he went on the defensive.
“You should also know that I never covered my brother’s troubles because I obviously have a conflict,” Cuomo said. “And there are rules at CNN about that.”
However, Andrew was a regular guest on Chris’ show a year ago during the beginning of COVID-19. Chris said Monday that he said at the time his brother’s appearances would be short-lived and then reminded viewers that his brother hadn’t appeared on his show in more than a year.
“I also said back then that a day would come when he would have to be held to account and I can’t do that,” Cuomo said. “Point blank, I can’t be objective when it comes to my family. So I never reported on the scandal. And when it happened, I tried to be there for my brother.”
Cuomo said he was not an adviser, but a brother, and that he was there “to offer my take.”
And what was that take? Cuomo said he told his brother to “own what you did, tell people what you do to be better, be contrite and, finally, accept that it doesn’t matter what you intended. What matters is how your actions and words were perceived.”
Cuomo then said he ultimately urged his brother to resign.
He added, “There are stories and critics saying all kinds of things about me, many unsupported. But know this: My position has never changed. I never misled anyone about the information I was delivering or not delivering on this program. I never attacked nor encouraged anyone to attack any woman who came forward.”
Cuomo said he never made calls to the press on his brother’s behalf or attempted to influence CNN’s coverage. And he said that when it became known (thanks to a Washington Post story) that he was involved in meetings involving his brother, he apologized to his colleagues and stopped.
He closed by saying the situation was unique and that he tried to do the right thing.
“This will be my final word on it,” Cuomo said.
While some viewers won’t be totally satisfied with what Cuomo had to say, at least he addressed the controversy. Then again, it doesn’t erase this mess. CNN should have never allowed Andrew to appear on Chris’ show during the early stages of the coronavirus. Chris should have never been a part of strategy sessions with his brother. And, if Chris was going to offer his brother advice, viewers should have been told about that well before the Post story broke the news.
This piece originally appeared in The Poynter Report, our daily newsletter for everyone who cares about the media. Subscribe to The Poynter Report here.