August 11, 2021

The news broke Tuesday afternoon.

Cuomo resigned.

And the first question was: Which one?

It was Andrew, the governor of New York. It was not Chris, the CNN prime-time anchor. Chris is on vacation this week, but even though he is out of sight, he is not out of mind. He and CNN are still getting plenty of heat for Chris’ role as an adviser in his brother’s defense against multiple allegations of sexual harassment.

That heat might actually die down, at least a little bit, now that his brother, Andrew, did what many thought he wouldn’t do and step down.

“Given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing,” Gov. Cuomo said. “And therefore, that’s what I’ll do.”

But Cuomo goes away defiantly. In a 21-minute speech, Cuomo clearly believes he has been wronged. (The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips called it a “cringey apology.”)

“This situation and moment are not about the facts,” Cuomo said. “It’s not about the truth. It’s not about thoughtful analysis. It’s not about how do we make the system better. This is about politics. And our political system today is too often driven by the extremes.”

He also seemed to make excuses for his behavior, blaming his timing more than his actions.

“In my mind, I have never crossed the line with anyone,” Cuomo said. “But I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.”

Cuomo’s speech came after his lawyer, Rita Glavin, partly blamed the media for her client’s troubles. Glavin also took issue with the report from the New York attorney general, who found the accusations against Cuomo to be credible.

Glavin said, “What happened between Tuesday, Aug. 3, when this report came down was that dozens of people called for the governor’s resignation. The governor had no opportunity to respond, and a press cycle ensued. And journalists were saying things that he had groped and that he had fondled 11 women, and that wasn’t true, and that wasn’t in the report. And over the last eight days, the media frenzy contributed to what the report was, which was the investigators acted as the prosecutors, the judge and the jury of Gov. Cuomo. … This was not about an independent review of the allegations and the circumstances surrounding them. From day one, this was about building a case against Gov. Cuomo.”

Despite Glavin’s protestations, once the attorney general’s report was released, Cuomo’s days as governor were numbered. And many New Yorkers, regardless of politics, wanted Cuomo out.

In a point-counterpoint column in The New York Times, conservative Bret Stephens wrote even before Cuomo resigned, “Cuomo is our state’s great unifier. Everyone from The Nation to our friends at The New York Post is in agreement that he needs to go, immediately. What I find somewhat amazing is that more New Yorkers didn’t recognize sooner what a repulsive, repellent, repugnant, revolting, retrograde, rebarbative, reprobative reptile they had in the governor’s office. What took so long?”

Meanwhile, in the same piece, Gail Collins said, “Well, you wouldn’t have had trouble finding stories about what a bully and jerk Cuomo can be. The grabbing part is, of course, the big news, and I sure wish it had gotten attention sooner.”

As far as Chris Cuomo, there are still calls for him to resign as well. The New York Post’s Maureen Callahan started her column with “One down. One to go.”

That’s not going to happen. I find it highly unlikely that Chris would resign or that CNN will suddenly change its thinking on the situation. Chris should have never had his brother on more than a year ago to talk about COVID-19 and he should have never have been a part of the team strategy session to help advise his brother against the sexual harassment allegations. But if CNN was going to do something about it, it would have already done so. The New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum reported Tuesday that Chris has been talking directly to his brother the past week and advised him to resign. Again, CNN seems OK with all of this.

Media columnists and critics can wag their fingers and shake their heads and call for suspensions and firings. But Chris will return soon from his previously-planned vacation, and will continue to host his prime-time show with no further mentions of his brother. That’s how all this is going to play out.

Cuomo coverage

Here are a few noteworthy stories regarding Andrew Cuomo’s resignation:

Leadership change at Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Tribune has a new executive editor. It’s Mitch Pugh, who has spent the past eight years as executive editor of The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina. Pugh replaces Colin McMahon, who is stepping down after 18 months — a year-and-a-half of turmoil at the paper.

As the Tribune’s Robert Channick reports, “Pugh arrives at the Chicago Tribune during a tumultuous time for the 174-year-old newspaper in the wake of hedge fund Alden Global Capital’s $633 million acquisition of Tribune Publishing in late May. More than 40 Chicago Tribune journalists, including many high-profile reporters and editors, accepted a voluntary buyout, leading to a shuffling of talent to fill key vacancies.”

Pugh is an Illinois native and a graduate of the University of Illinois Springfield. The Post and Courier had a solid reputation under Pugh’s leadership, and won a Pulitzer Prize in 2015 for public service journalism. The prize was for a series called “Till Death Do Us Part,” which looked at why South Carolina was among the deadliest states for women and, according to the Pulitzer Board, “put the issue of what to do about it on the state’s agenda.”

In a memo to staff, McMahon said it was “time to move on” and said, “I’m looking forward to the next chapter.” He did not say what that next chapter would be.

Poynter scoop

My colleague Rick Edmonds, Poynter’s media business analyst, had an interesting scoop Tuesday. Edmonds reported that Stewart Bainum Jr., who once had an interest in buying The Baltimore Sun, now is looking to launch a nonprofit news organization that could end up competing against the Sun.

Edmonds wrote, “Six postings on the Jooble site seek various mid-level executives to plan a multimedia and comprehensive news startup for the city. A source familiar with Bainum’s thinking said plans are still preliminary, and the project might yet be found not to be feasible. But the source conceded this is a strong signal that Bainum wants to go ahead with an alternative after his attempt to put together a deal this spring to buy all of Tribune Publishing failed.”

Greene suspended from Twitter

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Wingnut Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican Congresswoman from Georgia, has been suspended a week from Twitter after a tweet that claimed vaccines and masks do not stop the spread of COVID-19 and that the Food and Drug Administration should not approve the vaccines.

Then she released a statement through her office, filled with more wacky claims about COVID-19, attacks on Dr. Anthony Fauci and, of course, Twitter.

She wrote, “But Twitter won’t allow any real discussion of the truth from an elected Congresswoman because Twitter only cares about the Democrat Communist agenda for America.”

She closed with, “It’s a good thing my voters couldn’t care less about Twitter.”

Apparently, however, the Congresswoman cares a great deal about Twitter, enough to put out a statement whining about her suspension.

Oh, one more thing. The New York Times’ Davey Alba reported, “The company said this was Ms. Greene’s fourth ‘strike,’ which means that under its rules she can be permanently barred if she violates Twitter’s coronavirus misinformation policy again. The company issued her third strike less than a month ago.”

As many on social media pointed out on Tuesday, does anyone with Twitter know how baseball works? I mean, four strikes?

Dominion keeps swinging

Dominion Voting Systems filed lawsuits on Tuesday against two pro-Trump TV networks — Newsmax and One America News — claiming they spread baseless conspiracy theories that Dominion helped rig the 2020 election. The lawsuit against OAN includes two of its on-air personalities, Chanel Rion and Christina Bobb, and the network’s owners, Robert and Charles Herring.

Each suit seeks at least $1.6 billion.

Dominion lawyer Stephen Shackelford wrote, “Newsmax and OAN both endorsed, repeated, broadcast, and amplified a series of verifiably false lies about Dominion to serve their own commercial purposes.” In a statement, Dominion CEO John Poulos said, “The defendants in today’s filings recklessly disregarded the truth when they spread lies in November and continue to do so today.”

In response, Newsmax put out a statement that said, “While Newsmax has not reviewed the Dominion filing, in its coverage of the 2020 Presidential elections, Newsmax simply reported on allegations made by well-known public figures, including the President, his advisors and members of Congress — Dominion’s action today is a clear attempt to squelch such reporting and undermine a free press.”

Dominion filed a similar suit in March against Fox News for $1.6 billion. That case is ongoing (Fox News filed a motion in May to have the suit dismissed), as are Dominion suits against MyPillow founder Mike Lindell and Trump campaign attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell.

Don’t call her nice

White House press secretary Jen Psaki. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Vogue’s profile of White House press secretary Jen Psaki is out. It was written by Lizzie Widdicombe with photos from famed photographer Annie Leibovitz.

It’s a glowing piece, but that’s based on conversations with many among the White House press corps. Widdicombe writes, “The White House reporters I speak to more or less agree. They appreciate her practice of calling on everyone, including (Fox News’ Peter) Doocy, and her civility, even when she’s implying that a story they’ve written is daft. The Times’s Peter Baker, who’s been on the White House beat since the Bill Clinton administration, says that Psaki’s tenure feels like a return to an earlier era. ‘She’s lowered the temperature and gotten us back to a more stable, if adversarial, relationship.’”

Don’t, however, call her nice.

“It is like nails on a chalkboard,” Psaki told Widdicombe. “And it still happens. I was introduced to a foreign delegation in the hallway the other day as ‘This is Jen. You may have seen her do the briefings. She’s a really nice person.’ I’m like, Really? You can’t think of a better description?”

It’s a worthwhile read and includes not only Psaki’s job as press secretary, but her upbringing, her career in politics and lots of other interesting tidbits.

Free Austin Tice

Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan has an important column: “Austin Tice is turning 40. Can this president finally bring him home?”

Tice is the freelance journalist who was abducted in Syria in 2012 and is believed to still be alive.

Ryan writes, “In the 3,283 days since his capture, the world has clearly changed dramatically. But one thing has not: the United States’ obligation to bring Austin Tice safely home. The United States should never stand by when dictatorships take our citizens hostage.”

He calls upon President Joe Biden to do what Barack Obama and Donald Trump could not. Ryan writes, “Today, President Biden has an opening to succeed where his predecessors failed. From Syria’s point of view, a new negotiating partner can offer a fresh start. A new administration still in search of a Syria policy has a chance to place Tice’s return front and center.”

Defending journalists

As I mentioned in Tuesday’s newsletter, a Mexican TV news anchor received a death threat over her coverage of a powerful drug cartel. In a video, masked men claiming to represent Rubén Oseguera Cervantes — aka “El Mencho,” leader of the Jalisco New Generation cartel — threatened Milenio Television and anchor Azucena Uresti for what they think is unfair coverage.

On Tuesday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a frequent critic of the press, defended Uresti and all journalists against such threats.

The New York Times’ Oscar Lopez reports that the president said, “I completely condemn those threats. I reiterate my solidarity with this journalist, Azucena Uresti, and to all journalists, with the guarantee that our government will always protect those who carry out this job.”

But, Lopez wrote, “In reality, the government has done little to protect them. Journalists are regularly murdered in Mexico because of their work, giving added credibility to the death threat from one of the country’s most violent drug cartels.”

Open Tabs

If you enjoy The Poynter Report, I have something else from Poynter that might interest you. It’s a new newsletter debuting this week called Open Tabs. Each Friday, Poynter managing editor Ren LaForme will suggest three Poynter stories you should read before finishing your workweek. It might include stories on, or from Poynter’s PolitiFact or MediaWise or the IFCN. Plus, Ren will share behind-the-scenes details about how the stories came together. Here’s how to subscribe.

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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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