The Tempest Exclusive series Media Watch investigates and introspects on the intricacies of free speech around the world, right from The Tempest newsroom.
If we learned anything from 2020, it’s that no one is invincible. From an international pandemic to criticisms surrounding both the former and the new president, it was a year of reckoning for many public figures. Media giant CNN, both revered and despised throughout the political spectrum, proved no different. Star commentator Chris Cuomo, brother of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, is one of the more outspoken, recognizable faces on CNN due to his 9 p.m. slot on “Cuomo Prime Time.”
So after nine women came out and accused Andrew Cuomo of sexual misconduct, with harassment ranging from inappropriate touching to unwanted kisses, the world recognized that Chris Cuomo now had a major conflict of interest when covering his brother.
CNN, on the other hand, does not have that same issue–but that didn’t stop the organization from dragging its feet on giving the scandal a headline.
Throughout Cuomo’s five-season show, it was stipulated by CNN that he can’t cover his brother on air; the conflict of interest is too obvious and undermines the anti-bias that CNN allegedly stands for. However, they made an exception during the COVID-19 pandemic when Andrew Cuomo was praised for how he handled New York. Andrew Cuomo was interviewed multiple times on his brother’s show.
In essence, Chris Cuomo’s conflict of interest lasted until it was time to pay lip service to how great a leader his brother was; meanwhile, the truth behind Andrew Cuomo’s so-called COVID “success” was that hundreds of people in his state were dying. When it was discovered that the state covered up COVID death numbers, the governor shocked the public by saying during a press conference, “Who cares if they died in the hospital, died in a nursing home? They died.”
Andrew Cuomo's response to NY AG report on nursing home COVID deaths: "Who cares?" "They died." pic.twitter.com/czFlJfmge4
— MediaResearchCenter (@theMRC) January 31, 2021
New York, which had some of the highest COVID death rates, was further disillusioned in March when Andrew Cuomo’s latest disappointment made headlines. Although Lindsey Boylan had initially accused Cuomo of sexual misconduct in a December 11 tweet, it all came to a head in late February/early March when she published a tell-all essay about her time as an aide to the governor. Since then, eight more women have come forward with their stories, including former aide Anna Ruch, whose harassment was caught on camera at a wedding.
Whoa at this pic: A young woman says Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked if he could kiss her at a wedding, and put his hands on her face
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) March 2, 2021
And what do we hear from CNN and Chris Cuomo? Crickets.
The only reason why they started to cover the story was because of pressure from other news outlets like The New York Post and The Business Insider. But the coverage was delicate, skirting around the topic, never calling it what it is, and always making sure to highlight the governor’s successes amidst the scandal.
“[The] governor [has] fallen to arguably the lowest point of his decades-long political career just months after hitting his highest high,” says an unnamed aide from a March 16 article on CNN. Isn’t it convenient, the way they drop how lengthy Cuomo’s career is? It also didn’t go unnoticed that they linked this article about how many people approved of the way Cuomo handled the virus in his state when mentioning Cuomo’s “highest high”. The headline gushes, “Andrew Cuomo may be the single most popular politician in America right now”.
Talk about reverse psychology; the headline all but tells us, Hey, everyone makes mistakes!
Also problematic is the terminology that the aide uses when referencing the scandal, stating, “It’s something he [Cuomo] always felt was important to remember: that sometimes you get knocked down and you have to get back to work.”
According to CNN, getting “knocked down” is having your sexual misconduct brought to light. What about Lindsey Boylan, Ana Liss, or Anna Ruch, who endured inappropriate comments and touching while working for Cuomo? Weren’t they “knocked down”, too? Why is CNN addressing the resilience of the predator, but not the courage of the victims?
This is only another case of the media belittling sexual assault victims to suit their narratives, something that’s become the norm. Fortunately, CNN did not shy away from reporting the facts of the case, covering the impeachment inquiry that the State Assembly commenced on March 11, in addition to Democrat leaders like Senator Chuck Schumer and House representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez calling for Cuomo’s resignation.
But this does not erase CNN’s bias, nor did we forget Chris Cuomo’s belated response in covering his brother’s scandal.
“Obviously I am aware of what’s going on with my brother,” said the younger Cuomo on a March 1 airing of his show. “And obviously I cannot cover it because he is my brother. Now, of course, CNN has to cover it. They have covered it extensively and they will continue to do so.”
>> @ChrisCuomo at the top of @CuomoPrimeTime tonight: "Obviously I am aware of what is going on with my brother. And obviously I cannot cover it because he is my brother. Now, of course CNN has to cover it. They have covered it extensively and they will continue to do so." pic.twitter.com/G49mZYTG4D
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) March 2, 2021
I don’t live in New York, but I live close enough in New Jersey to be very familiar with the city, its people, and the way their leaders have disappointed them during the COVID-19 crisis. And from that point of view, perhaps Chris Cuomo only said this because people wouldn’t let him get away with ignoring this, especially with how extensively his network covers the scandals of people they don’t like.
Why is CNN addressing the resilience of the predator, but not the courage of the victims?
Is there any doubt that Cuomo has a conflict of interest in covering his brother’s scandal? No. Was that same doubt apparent when he covered his brothers “highest high?” For sure. Should he have waited so long to address the scandal, and should CNN have covered it more fairly? Absolutely.
Time will tell whether or not the nine accusers will end up like another Tara Reade or Christine Blasey Ford, their truths belittled, their traumas discredited, and their stories forgotten by the mainstream elites.
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