Opinion | Chris Cuomo is defiant about his CNN firing and his brother’s crisis

“Everybody lost,” said Chris Cuomo in a New York Magazine interview by Kara Swisher, published Monday, with regard to two years of tumult in the Cuomo family: New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo resigned his office in August 2021 over a sexual harassment crisis. Chris Cuomo, once a star CNN anchor, lost his job in part because he provided advice to his brother during the scandal. Former top CNN executives Jeff Zucker and Allison Gollust lost their posts after an investigation into the handling of the controversy over Chris Cuomo’s actions.

Cuomo, the former anchor of the 9 p.m. hour at CNN — “Let’s get after it,” he’d exhort his viewers nightly — is speaking out to promote his about-to-debut show, “Cuomo,” on NewsNation. If his remarks to Swisher are any indication, it will feature commentary ranging from dead-on accurate to self-serving to a tad delusional.

In the delusional basket belongs the sense of public service that he derives from the series of interviews he did with then-Gov. Cuomo when covid-19 started raging in 2020. “When Jeff [Zucker] decided to have Andrew on, I believe it was the right call because the country was desperate and starved for comfort,” said Chris Cuomo. Perhaps some folks may have derived comfort from the Cuomos’ fraternal banter. Others mocked it, and the vast majority of America ignored it or didn’t know it was going on to begin with.

In defense of the line-crossing interviews, Cuomo pointed out that media critics didn’t howl about the arrangement at the time. “They did so later,” he said. Correct: They did so when it became plain that Chris Cuomo would cover his brother when things were going well — during the early days of covid, that is — and hide when things started to slide downhill — during the scandals that emerged in early 2021.

Erik Wemple: Chris Cuomo risked his career to help his brother. Was anybody listening?

The decision to interview his brother was “a little bit of an impossible situation,” Cuomo told Swisher — and it wasn’t his plan in the first place (a claim that squares with previous reporting by the Erik Wemple Blog regarding the push from Chris Cuomo’s higher-ups to do the Cuomo-on-Cuomo segments). “[W]hen I did have him on, it was not about news and covering a governor of state. That’s all I’m saying. And I don’t think that it’s an easy case to make against me that I don’t know how to test people in power.”

Boldface added to highlight a violation of the Erik Wemple Blog’s Don’t-Tell-Me-You-Host-a-Talk-Show Rule. There was a certain logo that fronted Chris Cuomo’s show every night: “CNN,” it said. That stands for “Cable News Network.” As long as that logo is present, viewers expect news. Over on Fox News, host Sean Hannity has tried to wiggle out of ethical binds — whose heinousness far exceed anything in the Chris Cuomo oeuvre — by arguing that he works as a “talk show host.

Best not to even dabble in an argument advanced by Hannity.

Cuomo was fired by CNN in December 2021, after New York Attorney General Letitia James released transcripts that showed his involvement in his brother’s pushback operation. A CNN statement also referred to another consideration in the personnel decision, which was later reported to be a sexual harassment allegation from Cuomo’s time at ABC News. Cuomo has denied that allegation.

As for the revelations that he assisted with his brother’s fruitless efforts to fight sexual harassment allegations, Cuomo said that he wasn’t the “main guy” — that he was a “side piece” (his term, not ours) in the massive PR assault. Thousands of pages of testimony from the New York AG support this version of events, as this blog reported in December 2021. “Chris sends me a lot of things a lot of the time. Half of it I don’t engage in. He gives unsolicited advice,” noted Melissa DeRosa, who served as Andrew Cuomo’s top aide, in her testimony.

That dynamic makes Chris Cuomo’s trajectory doubly painful: He risked his career to ineffectively assist his brother. When Swisher asked Chris Cuomo about his relationship with his brother, considering that “he kind of got you fired,” Chris Cuomo responded, “He’s my brother.”

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