CNN host Chris Cuomo reportedly advised his brother, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, on how he should handle allegations of sexual harassment.
Four people familiar with the calls told The Washington Post that Cuomo was on several conference calls with his brother, the governor’s top aide, communications team, lawyers and outside advisors. The calls occurred in early 2021 after several women accused Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment.
Chris Cuomo reportedly told the governor that he should not resign from his position, citing “cancel culture” as a reason to take a defiant stance against the accusations. (RELATED: ‘It Is Not Surprising’: CNN Defends Chris Cuomo Receiving Preferential COVID-19 Testing From NY Governor Brother)
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo advised his brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and senior members of the governor’s staff on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations made earlier this year by women who had worked with the governor. @jdawsey1 @sarahellison scoop https://t.co/aQpR1Halwh
— Yashar Ali ???? (@yashar) May 20, 2021
Andrew Cuomo has denied the allegations from at least eight women who claimed he made inappropriate comments or touched them without their permission. He is under investigation by the state attorney general and the state’s assembly, but has said that he is not resigning from his position.
The CNN host’s role in advising his brother raises questions about journalistic ethics. Columbia Journalism School professor and New Yorker staff writer Nicholas Lemann told the Post that Cuomo advising his brother was “not okay.”
“If you are actively advising a politician in trouble while being an on-air host on a news network, that’s not okay,” Lemann said.
CNN called Cuomo’s reported participation in the calls “inappropriate,” but said that the news anchor would not be disciplined, according to The Washington Post.
“Chris has not been involved in CNN’s extensive coverage of the allegations against Governor Cuomo — on air or behind the scenes,” CNN reportedly said in a statement. “In part because, as he has said on his show, he could never be objective. But also because he often serves as a sounding board for his brother.”
“However, it was inappropriate to engage in conversations that included members of the Governor’s staff, which Chris acknowledges,” CNN continued. “He will not participate in such conversations going forward.”
“There were a few phone conversations, with friends and advisers giving the governor advice,” Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Andrew Cuomo, told the Post. One advisor with knowledge of the conversations said that Chris Cuomo was on the calls because “the governor only trusts about five people.”
Chris Cuomo is one of the governor’s family members who received special access to priority testing during the coronavirus pandemic.
When the sexual harassment allegations first surfaced, Cuomo said that he “obviously” could not cover the story given his relationship with the governor. But despite initially being prevented from covering his brother when he joined CNN in 2013, during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, Chris Cuomo regularly interviewed his brother in discussions that allowed the governor an opportunity to boast about his handling of the pandemic.