The sexual harassment scandal that will soon result in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s impeachment or resignation is a huge news story. It’s a story tailor-made for the sensationalism, the shallowness, and the political intrigue that cable news does best.
It’s the kind of story that gets the viewer’s attention and holds it for precious minutes at a time, leading to higher ratings which, in turn, allow a news network to charge advertisers more for the privilege of displaying their wares.
This is the gold standard in cable news. More eyeballs mean more profits. It’s why the news networks loved Donald Trump — insofar as he brought in millions of viewers. Love him or hate him, Trump was good for the TV news business.
But ever since Donald Trump left office and the pandemic has waned, the trend toward cutting the cord has accelerated as viewers have realized they don’t need CNN, Fox, or MSNBC to stay informed. The networks are bleeding viewers and the slide into irrelevancy appears irreversible.
The Cuomo story, due to its combination of sex, power, and celebrity scandal, has briefly interrupted the slide. But the way the story is being covered should actually become the story. For CNN and Andrew Cuomo’s younger brother Chris, the reckoning can’t come soon enough.
Chris Cuomo is the highest-rated prime-time host on CNN. He is also an accomplice in trying to cover up his brother’s revolting treatment of women who work for him. Chris Cuomo, according to the report written by the New York attorney general, helped write a statement for the media defending the governor’s actions and denying any wrongdoing. He also sat in on strategy meetings to deal with the PR crisis.
For Andrew Cuomo to involve his brother Chris in his legal troubles is despicable. For Chris Cuomo, a man hired to report the news for CNN, to have agreed to help his brother while continuing to cover politics — including his brother — should enrage anyone who purports to respect journalism.
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But when you think about it, there’s nothing in this story that should surprise us. The incestuous relationship between major media personalities and politicians goes back to John F. Kennedy, who palled around with the likes of Time’s Hugh Sidey and Washington Post editor Ben Bradley. Despite the fawning coverage of JFK from both publications — as well as covering up his numerous and sordid extramarital affairs — it’s extremely unlikely that any of Kennedy’s media confidantes would have assisted him in crafting a statement defending JFK’s actions.
“It gives critics of the media something else to use at a time when really the media needs to work really hard to try to rebuild its credibility with the American public,” a “rival network host” told Fox News. “What’s been happening of late on the Cuomo story has not helped.”
The fact is, Fox News and MSNBC know that if that shoe were on their foot, they wouldn’t have acted much differently. A lot can be forgiven if a TV personality attracts a lot of viewers, and that may be the reason a lot of the media criticism at Chris Cuomo and CNN is muted.
Chris Cuomo hasn’t reported at all on Gov. Cuomo’s woes this week, in keeping with what he said in March about how he “obviously” couldn’t report on his own family. Those words rang hollow for critics, given that he was allowed by CNN to conduct a series of fawning interviews with his brother – they even did prop comedy with an oversized Q-tip – at the height of the coronavirus pandemic last year.
Yet even after the Post’s story on Cuomo crossing the line from concerned brother to outright political strategist, CNN President Jeff Zucker didn’t reprimand him. Zucker called it a “mistake” during a staff meeting and never took him off the air. The New York Times reported CNN brass even floated him taking a leave of absence this year to help out his brother.
Chris Cuomo is going on a “long-planned” vacation this week. Don’t be surprised if it lasts until his brother is out of office.