Wa-Po columnist takes Brian Stelter to woodshed over Chris Cuomo ‘wet kisses,’ calls for CNN probe

CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter was taken to the woodshed by Erik Wemple of The Washington Post, who said Stelter “whitewashed the whole mess” of colleague Chris Cuomo advising his embattled brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is mired in a sexual harassment scandal.

While Cuomo interviewed his brother many times in 2020, propping him up for his handling of the pandemic while Gov. Cuomo forced nursing homes to take patients infected with COVID-19 resulting in thousands of deaths, when the sex scandal hit the fan, the CNN anchor announced he would not be covering that because of their relationship as brothers. It was also learned via the recent New York attorney general’s report that Cuomo served as an informal adviser to his brother during this time.

On Sunday, Stelter explained that Cuomo’s involvement here “has been a conundrum for CNN,” but said there was “more to it,” explaining that while it “looks awkward” for the network, his colleague was still respected and supported, and has proven that he is still able to do his job. In effect, Stelter said there was “no perfect answer” for CNN. He justified last year’s interviews with the governor as being “an unprecedented time.”

All of which Wemple characterized as “wet kisses.”

“There is nothing at all ‘complicated’ about the story. CNN flouted journalistic ethics in spring 2020 when it allowed Chris Cuomo to host his brother about a dozen times in flattering gab sessions — and then, when the governor’s COVID-19 and sexual harassment scandals piled up in early 2021, the network somehow tracked down its internal guidelines and banned Chris Cuomo from covering his brother,” he wrote. “That switcheroo is what is unprecedented.”

Stelter’s segment on Sunday can be seen here:

(Video: CNN)

Wemple shared an on-air quote from Chris Cuomo last year celebrating his brother: “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.”

The columnist also noted that Stelter pointed to Cuomo’s ratings, and declared that CNN “is so much bigger than any one network,” saying he was “trying to remember the last time that Stelter excused some atrocity at Fox News by pointing to the network’s killer ratings.”

“Has Stelter ever applied that same logic to Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity?” asked Wemple.

Detailing Chris Cuomo’s role as crisis-management adviser, Wemple said this is “far more than an optics problem for CNN.”

“The AG report, of course, focuses on Andrew Cuomo’s conduct, not Chris Cuomo’s. That’s why CNN needs to commission a report of its own to determine just how its star anchor fit into this sexual harassment pushback effort,” he wrote. “What, precisely, did he say in the conference calls … What role did he play in the governor’s denials?

Citing a conflict-of-interest problem involving a New York Times sportswriter and Olympic athlete Michael Phelps, Wemple called on CNN to launch an investigation.

“The line-crossing behavior of Chris Cuomo makes the Times example look like ethical Silly Putty,” he concluded. “Which is why we asked CNN point-blank: Has CNN taken any steps toward investigating Chris Cuomo’s activities?”

Tom Tillison

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