Late Show host Stephen Colbert held Brian Stelter‘s feet to the fire on Tuesday night when he pressed CNN’s chief media correspondent on his network’s “odd conflict of rules” when it comes to the Cuomo brothers.
Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday his decision to resign as governor of New York, unarguably too long after multiple accusations of sexual misconduct and harassment surfaced against the veteran politico — and after his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, continued to advise him on navigating the scandal.
Chris Cuomo in fact has been counseling his brother all year, ever since the first allegations came to light. All the while (and reaching back into much of 2020), Chris regularly had Andrew on as a guest on his nightly newscast, primarily to discuss the COVID pandemic, but never the sexual harassment claims.
Broaching the topic with Stelter mere hours after Andrew Cuomo’s resignation announcement, Colbert noted, “It had been alleged that [Chris] was helping his brother with his communications team, [and] the New York Times is reporting that that is true, Chris was helping his brother. Has that created any conflict over at CNN, behind closed doors? Are people mad at him? Or is he in trouble?”
“Some people are mad at him,” Stelter answered, before confirming that the Cuomos had talked on the phone earlier this week. Colbert asked if Stelter’s “source” is in fact his CNN colleague, but he said no. As Stelter put it, “You’ve got to have boundaries. You’ve got to draw a line.”
“Why?” Colbert asked. “He doesn’t.”
“I think he does, actually,” Stelter argued, before clarifying: “I think Chris does; I don’t know about the governor.”
“What are the boundaries?” Colbert inquired.
Stelter explained, “The boundary that CNN management presented to [Chris] in May, when they admitted he screwed up, they said, ‘You admitted you were on the phone with your brother’s aides, advising them on what to do, and that was inappropriate.’ But they said, ‘Of course you’re going to talk to your brother…'”
“But he didn’t talk about his brother once the trouble [with sexual harassment allegations] started,” Colbert pointed out, referring to Chris’ silence on the matter on his primetime show.
Stelter replied that keeping Chris mum on the brewing scandal was “a management ruling,” setting Colbert up to ask: “But why didn’t they rule that way when his brother was on the show pretty much every night during the COVID crisis? That seems like an odd conflict of rules.”
“I think it’s really complicated. It is an odd conflict,” Stelter said. “If we open up the journalism ethics book, there’s no page for this — the craziest set of circumstances that you can imagine, right? A governor and a brother, both in these high-profile jobs. This is definitely awkward for CNN, though…. I talked to a lot of sources at CNN. Some said, ‘Yeah, this is really weird. I’m ticked off at Chris.’ Others said, ‘You know, I understand. You can’t pick who your family members are.’ So there was a wide range of opinions, and overall I think what was most important is that we covered the story on air, just the same we would any other story. Ultimately, isn’t that what matters?”
Chris Cuomo this week is on a pre-planned, annual August vacation.
What do you think of Stelter’s take on CNN’s handling of the Cuomo/Cuomo conflict?