CNN’s media watchdog, Brian Stelter, defended Chris Cuomo as “honest” despite the fact that Cuomo gave an incomplete and misleading picture of his role as an adviser to his brother during the governor’s recent sexual harassment scandal.
On Monday, Chris Cuomo closed his show with a terse “final” comment, defending his ethical probity for helping to craft Governor Andrew Cuomo’s unsuccessful defense against 11 women’s charges of unwelcome groping and sexual propositions.
Stelter, whose Sunday afternoon show frequently critiques Fox News for its purported lack of journalistic integrity, extolled Cuomo, whose eponymous prime time program typically ranks as the network’s highest-rated show.
“Chris Cuomo, back from vacation, ended his program Monday night by delivering an honest and heartfelt comment about his ‘brother’s situation,’” wrote Stelter in the Tuesday edition of his “Reliable Sources” newsletter.
Like Cuomo, Stelter primarily focused on the way it affected Chris Cuomo.
“Cuomo said the imminent resignation of NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been ‘unlike anything’ he could have ‘ever imagined.’’ He went on to say that ‘it was a unique situation, being a brother to a politician in a scandal and being part of the media,’” Stelter wrote.
He went on to tell his readers that Cuomo said he “‘tried to do the right thing’ throughout it all and that he wanted people to ‘know that.’ He concluded by saying that this would be his ‘final word’ on the subject.”
It is true that Chris Cuomo said that his brief statement on Monday would serve as his first and “final word” since being named as one of his brother’s closest political confidantes and advisers during the sexual harassment scandal. But as this author has noted, Chris Cuomo has been less forthcoming about his role in the than either he or Stelter have acknowledged.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said that Chris Cuomo received confidential material about his brother’s accusers; he reportedly counseled his brother to be “defiant” and present himself as a victim of “cancel culture”; he apparently drafted or revised his brother’s press statements, and he continued to advise his brother after both he and the network gave viewers the impression that such contact had ended. (See the details here.)
Stelter, an inveterate critic of Fox News and other conservative media, has emerged as the top defender of the embattled anchor and their mutual employer, CNN.
He gave a widely panned defense of Cuomo last Tuesday on “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert.
“I also have a source that says Chris was on the phone with his brother this week,” Stelter said.
“Is your source Chris Cuomo?” the comedian asked.
“He is not. He is not,” Stelter said. “You’ve got to have boundaries, you’ve got to draw lines.”
“Why? He doesn’t!” Colbert quipped.
“I think he does, actually,” Stelter insisted.
“Overall, I think, what was most important is that we covered the story on air just the same as we would any other story. Ultimately, isn’t that what matters?” he asked, receiving little audience support.
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) August 11, 2021
On the August 8 episode of“Reliable Sources,” Stelter explained why CNN wants Cuomo to maintain his silence on the issue: “The logic on the part of management is that whatever Chris says about the allegations against his brother will be picked apart. He will be accused of either using his platform to spin for his family or he’ll be accused of betraying his brother.”
It is unclear how anyone conversant with Cuomo’s actions could accuse him of being less than fully committed to his brother’s defense.
The “logic” from CNN’s management, Stelter said, “is that he should just stay out of it. He should do the job that the viewers want him to do.”
But the ratings for “Cuomo Prime Time” reached their highest level the day after the AG’s report, indicating that viewers tuned in to see Cuomo would address the allegations. His ratings cratered for the rest of the week — especially among women. And a growing chorus of media observers have demanded that Cuomo speak to his role in the scandal, including on Stelter’s “Reliable Sources.”
“The viewers expect him to talk about it,” Lachlan Cartwright, editor-at-large of The Daily Beast, told Stelter on Sunday. “It’s the biggest political scandal of the year. If he doesn’t go on air tomorrow night and talk about it, it becomes a bigger story not just for him, but for CNN.”
The fact that Chris Cuomo felt a need to address the topic the first day he returned means that he realized he could no longer avoid the topic.
Stelter and the network brass hope that puts the issue to rest — but there are signs that CNN’s audience believes the network’s handling of the matter remains active.
“How is this appropriate or not a conflict of interest?” one viewer asked Stelter and Cuomo.
How is this appropriate or not a conflict of interest?
— Laura Kev (@LauraKev1truth) August 17, 2021
“@brianstelter, clean up on aisle 1, Brian, clean up on aisle one thank you”
— Paul #BillsMafia (@BillsMafia1985) August 17, 2021
Another said, “He should have a note from Jeff Zucker saying he’s fired if CNN has an ounce of integrity left.”
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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