Media

CNN president: Chris Cuomo made ‘mistake’ talking to brother with aides present

CNN

CNN President Jeff Zucker on Tuesday said anchor Chris Cuomo “made a mistake” by advising his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), during calls with aides on how to respond to a series of sexual harassment allegations against the elected official, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Zucker’s remarks came during a companywide town hall meeting mainly focused on plans for staffers to return to the outlet’s offices in person post-vaccination. 

During the meeting, the CNN executive reportedly also responded to questions on why Chris Cuomo was not disciplined following The Washington Post’s report last week revealing that the CNN host had participated in strategy calls with the governor, his top aide, his lawyers and the governor’s communications team.

The “Cuomo Prime Time” host reportedly advised his brother not to resign, and instead urged the New York governor to blame “cancel culture” when answering questions about the allegations. 

Chris Cuomo on his program the same day the news broke issued an apology for advising his brother, and CNN said in a statement at the time that it was “inappropriate” for the host to “engage in conversations that included members of the Governor’s staff,” but said that the network host would not face disciplinary action. 

The Journal reported that Zucker in Tuesday’s meeting said he was “not surprised that Chris had conversations with his brother,” but that he had “made a mistake” by participating in sessions with top Cuomo advisers. 

“He did cross the line by doing it with his brother’s aides present,” Zucker said Tuesday, according to the Journal. 

Zucker also reportedly told CNN staffers that “there are not special rules for Chris,” adding “he is human and these are very unique circumstances,” including the anchor’s close familial relationship with the New York governor and the challenges of reporting on a “once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.”

The Journal reported that Zucker said he did not think it would be useful to suspend Chris Cuomo from his program, arguing that such a move would be “punishment for the sake of punishing.”

According to Variety, which also reported on Tuesday’s town hall meeting, Zucker reiterated that Cuomo would no longer be involved in coverage on his brother, including through reports or interviews. 

CNN had attracted criticism after the network repeatedly aired live interviews during Chris Cuomo’s show amid the pandemic, which many argued became a platform for sibling banter, rather than credible reporting on the governor’s response to the health crisis. 

Scrutiny over the interviews ramped up following reports that the governor’s office intentionally altered reports on coronavirus death tolls in state nursing homes so as to avoid political punishment from then-President Trump, and again as several women accused the governor of sexual misconduct and harassment. 

The New York Post reported that Andrew Cuomo during a press conference Monday admitted that his brother had advised him on how to respond to the accusations, but downplayed the CNN host’s influence by saying, “I talk to journalists about situations all the time, and they tell me their thoughts and their advice.”

The Hill has reached out to CNN for comment.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Andrew Cuomo sexual harassment allegations Chris Cuomo CNN coronavirus pandemic Donald Trump Jeff Zucker New York Pandemic response The Wall Street Journal Variety

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