CNN anchor Chris Cuomo admitted on Wednesday night he isn’t “objective” in the latest in a series of widely panned interviews with his older brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, that have been called “a sham of journalistic principles” by critics.
“Is CNN a news operation? If so, it is inappropriate for it repeatedly to have this bizarre display of ‘brotherly love’ during a purported news broadcast, where one brother is serving as cheerleader for his politician sibling,” Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson told Fox News.
The frequent interviews between the CNN host and the Democratic leader of New York have been seen as a major conflict of interest throughout the coronavirus outbreak, especially over the past several weeks as scrutiny over the governor’s handling of nursing homes in his state intensified. While the siblings have been repeatedly panned for their playful chats masquerading as news for months, many critics feel that things managed to take a turn for the even worse on Wednesday night.
“Is CNN a news operation? If so, it is inappropriate for it repeatedly to have this bizarre display of ‘brotherly love’ during a purported news broadcast.”
DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall told Fox News he understands “Chris Cuomo won’t be objective when it comes to reporting about or interviewing his brother,” but feels someone at the network should have stepped in long ago and the routine is damaging to journalism.
“What is not understandable, and is quite unacceptable, is that CNN’s hierarchy allows such a clear conflict of interest in what is supposed to be a journalistic platform,” McCall said, noting that CNN doesn’t need Chris Cuomo’s help to get news from his brother, as the governor has appeared on other CNN programs.
“CNN might think this Cuomo-Cuomo tag team makes for heart-warming and fuzzy entertainment, but it makes a sham of journalistic principles.”
“This obvious coziness of a news program and the governor of a large state just looks bad for CNN and the journalism industry as a whole,” McCall added. “CNN might think this Cuomo-Cuomo tag team makes for heart-warming and fuzzy entertainment, but it makes a sham of journalistic principles. Public trust in the media institution is low enough as it is, without these kinds of avoidable stunts.”
The “Cuomo Prime Time” namesake gushed over his older brother Wednesday, noting that the brotherly interviews “will never be seen as fair in people’s eyes” but said CNN allows it because we’re an in an unusual time.
Cuomo then spoke about how proud their father, the late former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, was of his politician son.
This is one of the most embarrassing and self-destructive things I’ve seen a news outlet do.”
“Everything that he had ever said about public service is what you demonstrated right here and right now during this period when your state needed it most,” Cuomo told the governor. “I just hope that you recognize even what I’m able to recognize… I hope you are able to appreciate what you did in your state and what it means for the rest of the country now and what it will always mean for those who love and care about you the most.”
He continued, “I’m wowed by what you did and more importantly, I’m wowed by how you did it… Obviously, I love you as a brother. Obviously, I’ll never be objective. Obviously, I think you’re the best politician in the country. But I hope you feel good about what you did for your people because I know they appreciate it. Nothing’s perfect, you’ll have your critics, but I’ve never seen anything like what you did and that’s why I’m so happy to have had you on this show and I hope you know that.”
The governor thanked the anchor for the “sweet talk,” but not everyone approved.
“This is one of the most embarrassing and self-destructive things I’ve seen a news outlet do. I doubt even North Korean State TV would allow an anchor to “interview” his own brother and use their airwaves to declare him a Great and Noble Leader,” journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote. “Dynastic political power + StateTV.”
Shortly after the interview ended, Cuomo reiterated to his viewers, “He’s my big brother. I love him. Of course, I’m not objective, but let’s call it straight. Look at the state, look at the numbers… Yes, he’s my brother. There’s no question. I can cry about it in a second, but the results are there for all to see. Was it perfect? No, you tell me what is, but look at the state our country’s in. And if you don’t think this is going to be reflected in what happens in November, then you haven’t been paying attention.”
Mediaite published a roundup of criticism, noting that the CNN segment was “torn apart by commentators on both sides of the aisle.”
University of North Carolina professor Lois A. Boynton is a fellow in the University’s Parr Center for Ethics. She feels Chris is the “more emotional” of the siblings on-air and feels it was smart for the CNN host to admit he can’t be objective.
“It would be problematic if he tried to claim objectivity when interviewing or covering Gov. Cuomo,” Boynton told Fox News.
“After that, it depends on the intent of these exchanges. If CNN is going for objective news reporting about the governor’s track record, then someone other than his brother should do the reporting and get differing perspectives that would allow viewers to form their own conclusions,” Boynton said.
This marked the eleventh interview with his high-profile sibling since the coronavirus pandemic began – but it was the first time he asked about the growing nursing home controversy that had been dogging the New York governor.
“Nursing homes. People died there, they didn’t have to, it was mismanaged and the operators have been given immunity. What do you have to say about that?” the CNN anchor asked.
“If CNN is going for objective news reporting about the governor’s track record, then someone other than his brother should do the reporting and get differing perspectives that would allow viewers to form their own conclusions.”
“Several statements that are not correct, but that’s OK. It’s your show, you say whatever you want to say,” Gov. Cuomo jokingly reacted.
The governor then called the nursing home deaths “the most tragic situation” and pointed to how there were nursing home deaths “all across the country” and said “we have to figure out how to do it better the next time” before the next virus wave occurs.
Last month, the Cuomo siblings came under fire when the CNN host spent 25 minutes chatting up his older brother, whom he called the “Love Gov” on-air, and never asked about the controversy. Instead, the CNN anchor played a clip of his brother taking a coronavirus test, during which a nurse placed a cotton swab up his nostril, and joked about the size of his sibling’s nose, complete with oversized cotton swab props.
This time the CNN host ditched the prop comedy, but was panned nonetheless.