People often complain that you can’t trust the media anymore.
Chris Cuomo isn’t helping.
It turns out the host of CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” was more involved with the damage-control campaign for his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, than previously acknowledged. Andrew Cuomo resigned from office in August after allegations of sexual misconduct were levied against him.
It’s a mess, but it’s not a new mess for the Cuomos. Just a bigger one. Chris Cuomo had acknowledged helping his brother before, but the latest revelations are more damning. Enough so that CNN finally, after allowing Cuomo to remain on the air, took action.
“These documents point to a greater level of involvement in his brother’s efforts than we previously knew,” the network said in a statement.” As a result, we have suspended Chris indefinitely, pending further evaluation.”
How he’s hung on to a prime-time gig on one of the three major cable news networks as long as he has is anyone’s guess.
Or should be.
Usually, when someone says things used to be better in the old days, they’re remembering the old days wrong. But in this case — not just Cuomo’s, but with TV news generally – there’s something to it.
Trust and honesty used to define jobs like Cuomo’s
Jobs like Cuomo’s come with built-in authority. People watch and, more importantly, people listen. Trust and honesty used to be default descriptions.
What a joke that’s become.
They don’t want your trust. They want your eyeballs. Don’t be mistaken, no one in the history of news coverage went into it trying to lose money, and ratings have always been a necessity for TV longevity. But outrage is the engine that drives the cable-news machine now.
We should define terms here. When people think of trustworthy news anchors, they think of Walter Cronkite. “The Most Trusted Man in America,” and all that. People like to say he didn’t take sides, he simply reported the news. “That’s the way it is,” as he said during his sign-off.
Yet after a reporting trip to Vietnam in 1968, he also famously said this:
“We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds. … For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in stalemate.”
Of course, his words meant more because of the trust Americans placed in Cronkite. As President Lyndon Johnson supposedly said after the broadcast, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”
Cut to the present, with Carlson’s “Patriot Purge” documentary about the siege of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“Jan. 6 is being used as a pretext to strip millions of Americans — disfavored Americans — of their core constitutional rights,” Carlson says. Give us a break.
Maybe it’s a question of optics.
Cuomo, Carlson, Hannity and Maddow are hosts, not anchors
Neither Carlson nor Hannity nor Cuomo nor Rachel Maddow are traditional news anchors, as Cronkite was. They’re “hosts.” Most of the time they’re not reporting the news of the day so much as commenting on it. Fair enough. Commentary and opinion have long been a part of journalism, TV and otherwise.
Yet they’re sitting there, dressed up behind a desk, basically the same setup Cronkite and other anchors have used since time immemorial to deliver the news. Why wouldn’t we expect something similar?
Opinion has to be rooted in the same facts as straight reporting. Otherwise, it’s just irresponsible nonsense. And you have to be able to trust the person delivering it.
CNN’s handling of Cuomo and his brother has been sketchy from the start. During the pandemic ex-Gov. Cuomo appeared every so often on his brother’s show, despite the network having a policy that Chris would not interview or cover him. That seems potentially forgivable, given the uncertainty of the times and the chumminess of the appearances, though once would have been enough.
When news began to break of the allegations against Andrew Cuomo, Chris Cuomo largely stayed away from the story and acknowledged that he couldn’t be objective about family. As it turns out, he was also helping his brother’s team with how to handle the outcry.
The revelations about that involvement became more clear, and more damning, Monday when the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James released more documents and transcripts of interviews related to the investigation.
When Cuomo was on the air Monday night he said nothing about the story.
Maybe that’s best. It would be difficult to trust him if he had.