Chris Cuomo offered advice to brother Andrew Cuomo on coronavirus messaging: Testimony

Media top headlines November 29

In media news today, a ‘Good Morning America’ guest worries omicron variant could hurt Biden’s economic ‘progress,’ CNN gets roasted for a tweet about the Waukesha parade attack, and a New York Times columnist says he has a ‘high tolerance’ for inflation.

Embattled CNN host Chris Cuomo, who’s been under fire this year for giving private counsel to his brother Andrew Cuomo during his sexual harassment scandal, testified this year his advice was also sought by his brother’s team on coronavirus messaging in 2020.

That advice came the same year then-New York Gov. Cuomo enjoyed glowing interviews on his brother Chris’ CNN program and nearly universal media praise for his handling of the pandemic, before revelations about his controversial nursing home directives and a suspected cover-up of COVID-19 deaths began to sink his career. 

During his testimony to New York state investigators about then-Gov. Cuomo’s sexual harassment charges in July, Chris Cuomo said when he was passed information from inside his brother’s administration, it was as the brother of the governor, not a journalist, and he was “sometimes” being asked to provide advice or counsel.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo interviews his older brother New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a 2020 episode of ‘Cuomo Prime Time.’

“Can you give me an example of a situation prior to December of 2020 when your advice or counsel was sought by the staff of the executive chamber?” Cuomo was asked. 

“Discussions about initiatives with the pandemic and messaging from the governor about different aspects of how he was handling the COVID crisis,” Cuomo said, adding “maybe” when asked if he was being looked to for his communications expertise.

He added he viewed his role as the “governor’s brother” and he “generally” provided counsel. Andrew Cuomo resigned in August over the harassment allegations as he faced near-certain impeachment from state lawmakers.

Chris Cuomo, who is a licensed attorney, gave many such evasive or hedging answers during his testimony, saying “I don’t remember” or that he didn’t “recall” dozens of times, often about specific queries concerning conversations with senior staffers.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks before getting vaccinated at a church in the Harlem section of New York, Wednesday, March 17, 2021.
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)

As the coronavirus pandemic began to rage in 2020, then-Gov. Cuomo appeared on his brother’s CNN show “Cuomo Prime Time” for a series of friendly, lighthearted interviews – one briefly touched on the nursing home directive – that even included prop comedy with nasal swabs, jokes about their mother, and mutual expressions of brotherly love.

Chris Cuomo openly praised his brother’s handling of the pandemic during their interviews, at one point on June 24, 2020, telling him he was “wowed by what you did.” 

“Hope you are able to appreciate what you did in your state, and what it means for the rest of the country now, and what it will always mean to those who love and care about you the most,” he told him. “I’m wowed by what you did. And, more importantly, I’m wowed by how you did it. This was very hard. I know it’s not over. But obviously, I love you as a brother. Obviously, I’ll never be objective.”

He was hardly the only media personality to heap praise on the governor at the time, particularly at CNN. Media correspondent Brian Stelter, who’s been put in awkward spots throughout the Cuomo controversy due to his employer, called Cuomo’s leadership “remarkable” and at one point noting he would pass along advice to his own children.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – DECEMBER 08: Brian Stelter attends CNN Heroes at the American Museum of Natural History on December 08, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for WarnerMedia)
(Gilbert Carrasquillo/Kevin Mazur)

CNN has stood by its anchor throughout a legion of scandals this year, including a revelation he sexually harassed an ABC News producer in 2005. In a statement to the media, CNN said Monday the newly released testimony around the Cuomo investigation merited “thorough review and consideration.”

“We will be having conversations and seeking additional clarity about their significance as they relate to CNN over the next several days,” the network said.

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