New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo isn't the only member of his family under a bright spotlight as CNN anchor Chris Cuomo is facing scrutiny for assisting his brother’s response to sexual harassment allegations, though you wouldn't know it by watching the network.
The younger Cuomo was among the 179 people to be interviewed by independent investigators as part of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ probe into allegations against the governor.
According to the report, Chris Cuomo was in his brother’s inner circle as they began developing talking points and strategies as the sexual harassment allegations mounted and more women came forward.
While CNN covered the scandal surrounding the governor following the release of the report on Tuesday, Aug. 3, the network largely ignored Chris Cuomo’s involvement in the investigation.
A lone exception came during “Inside Politics” with anchor John King, who mentioned the CNN anchor midway through his broadcast, though he downplayed the younger Cuomo’s involvement.
“I’m going to put this on the record," he said. "Many of you know this, but the governor's brother, Chris, works right here at CNN as an anchor.
“We should note that and he was interviewed as part of the report as someone who reached out and talked to his brother as this crisis was unfolding."
Earlier this year, Chris Cuomo admitted having had "inappropriate" strategy talks with the governor, and vowed to stay clear of the network’s coverage of his brother.
The report found that Chris Cuomo was copied into a series of February emails from Gov. Cuomo's communications director, Peter Ajemian, and his chief of staff, Josh Vlasto, to other top aides mapping how they should delicately handle allegations by Charlotte Bennett.
In the emails it was determined that the best strategy would be to praise Bennett as a "hardworking and valued member of our team" while denying her allegations.
The following day, Chris Cuomo reportedly played a role in writing the response that the governor issued as more sexual harassment allegations mounted.
“Questions have been raised about some of my personal interactions with people in my office," the statement attributed to Chris Cuomo's email said. “I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends. I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm.”
The governor later issued a similar statement to the public, nearly verbatim to what his brother had sent in the email.
“Questions have been raised about some of my past interactions with people in the office," he said. "I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm. I spend most of my life at work and colleagues are often also personal friends.
“At work sometimes I think I am being playful and make jokes that I think are funny. I do, on occasion, tease people in what I think is a good-natured way. I do it in public and in private," the statement continued.
"You have seen me do it at briefings hundreds of times. I have teased people about their personal lives, their relationships, about getting married or not getting married. I mean no offense and only attempt to add some levity and banter to what is a very serious business.”
The AG report also said Chris Cuomo and others were "regularly provided with confidential and often privileged information about state operations and helped make decisions that impacted State business and employees—all without any formal role, duty, or obligation to the State.”
CNN has not issued a comment on the matter since James’ report was released. Previously, CNN President Jeff Zucker acknowledged that it was wrong for Chris Cuomo to advise his brother, though no punishment was issued by the network.
The complete report from the AG can be found here.
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