Washington Post media columnist Erik Wemple slammed CNN host Brian Stelter’s “whitewash” of fellow host Chris Cuomo and called for an outside investigation of Cuomo’s involvement in his governor brother’s sexual harassment scandal.
Brian Stelter, who hosts Reliable Sources, “attempted a demonstration of journalistic independence on his Sunday program,” Wemple wrote, by making several excuses for CNN’s compromised ethics.
Stelter said in part:
What I found is a more complicated story than you might think. This has been a conundrum for CNN that has no perfect answer, no perfect solution. Some think CNN made it worse by letting Chris interview his brother when covid-19 was ravaging New York. But that was an unprecedented time period.
A famous family in the news. A governor who soared to the highest heights last year now soaring to the lowest lows, self-inflicted wounds. And a brother who just wants to do his job, just wants to anchor his show, but can he? That’s the key question.
“That was a low point for Brian Stelter. I felt that he completely toed the CNN PR line on this whole thing. He minimized the ethical dimensions of this crisis. He minimized what Chris Cuomo did here in helping his brother try to respond to these allegations. This was a complete whitewash,” Wemple said during a Monday interview on News Nation.
Last week, New York Attorney General Leticia James released a report confirming New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed women. His brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, was implicated in the report for advising his brother and even presumably drafting one of the statements for the governor when he denied the allegations.
Chris Cuomo also interviewed his governor brother several times during the early days of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, and even said in June 2020 that he was unable to cover his relative fairly.
“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,” Chris Cuomo said.
Wemple, in his Post op-ed and on News Nation, called on CNN to have an outside law firm independently investigate Chris Cuomo’s involvement in his brother’s affairs, especially considering the copious amount of flattering news coverage CNN gave to the governor.
“I think that CNN should hire one of these outside law firms to commission an investigation into what Chris Cuomo knew, when he knew it, what role he played — what exact role he played in helping the governor to push back against these sexual harassment allegations,” Wemple said.
‘There’s clearly no line between Chris Cuomo and Andrew Cuomo, and there should have been,” he later said.
Stelter in his segment further defended Chris Cuomo by touting his show’s ratings:
Well, this week, Chris showed that he can [anchor his show]. He tuned out the family drama and led compelling interviews during “Cuomo Prime Time,” all while dealing with has to be one of the hardest periods of his adult life. Viewers wanted to see him on TV. And let’s be honest, this is TV. It’s not a totally irrelevant factor. Chris had the highest rated hour on CNN on Tuesday, on Wednesday and again on Thursday
CNN is so much bigger than any one anchor. What really matters most is how CNN, as a global news outlet, covers the governor’s alleged crimes.
Wemple rebuked Stelter for giving nuance to Cuomo’s role in the investigation while mercilessly criticizing the behavior of competitor news outlets with better ratings.
“We at the Erik Wemple Blog are trying to remember the last time that Stelter excused some atrocity at Fox News by pointing to the network’s killer ratings,” he wrote.
Stelter proceeded to blame “the optics” of the situation, to which Wemple argued, “there is no optics problem. It’s all substance.” Wemple noted the offenses in the AG’s report itself, saying Stelter’s glossy monologue did a disservice to the women involved in the investigation.
“Such abridgments fail to convey the horror and persistence of Andrew Cuomo’s alleged misogyny,” he wrote.
CNN issued a statement to the Washington Post in May that Chris Cuomo “will not be disciplined” for not upholding journalistic standards of integrity. Wemple wondered whether the network will ever truly examine Chris Cuomo’s actions.
“Has CNN taken any steps toward investigating Chris Cuomo’s activities? No response yet,” he concluded.