Chris Cuomo used his media sources to help Andrew with scandal damage control

This guy keeps giving CNN excuses to fire him and replace him with someone who, unlike Cuomo, can draw better than a third or less of what Fox draws in primetime. And they just keep passing on the opportunity.

A one-hour interview with Bill Maher recently helped Cuomo pull more than a million viewers for the first time in weeks. That should have been Jeff Zucker’s cue to dump him and see what kind of money it would take to lure Maher away from HBO.

We already knew that Chris participated in strategy calls held by Andrew’s aides this year as they tried to navigate the sexual misconduct scandal that eventually drove him to resign. CNN should have fired him then and there for a brazen violation of journalistic ethics, helping to shape current events that his network was covering without disclosing his role in them. Once that was revealed, Cuomo apologized to his colleagues — for getting caught, not for putting his brother’s interests above theirs and keeping them in the dark.

Jeff Zucker let him slide on that, possibly because Chris had already brazenly violated journalistic ethics in his treatment of Andrew once before with the network’s encouragement. The significance of today’s news, though, is that it’s now clear that Chris didn’t have a passive role in those strategy calls with Team Andrew. Not only was he actively assisting his brother behind the scenes, including drafting statements for him, but he was exploiting the journalist connections that CNN itself had helped him build to do so. His employment by the network made it possible for him to build relationships within the media industry that he leveraged to try to get an early warning about unflattering stories on Andrew that were in the works at other outlets. That would have been useful to the governor in allowing him to get ahead of those stories and develop talking points before they came out.

How does CNN let him slide on that? Chris’s excuse for helping Andrew from day one has been that he didn’t wear his two hats, reporter and brother, at the same time. He never reported on Andrew’s scandals on his own show, knowing that he couldn’t be objective. But he did wear both hats simultaneously off-camera, it seems, using his media relationships to stay on top of scandal news before it went public and in one case maybe even to dig up dirt on one of Andrew’s accusers.

It’s time, Jeff.

“Please let me help with the prep,” Chris Cuomo said to DeRosa in one message in early March. Then, three days after the New York Times reported in March about how Andrew Cuomo attempted to kiss a woman, Anna Ruch, in an unwanted advance at a wedding, Chris Cuomo texted DeRosa: “I have a lead on the wedding girl.”

He said that someone had called him who knew the bride’s family, and that a source of his had explained that “maybe she had been put up to it.” It’s unclear whether Cuomo was referring to Ruch or someone else. There were no further details of that incident included in the transcript. An attorney for DeRosa did not respond to a request for comment. Ruch could not be reached.

It’s unclear if the source who called him about “the wedding girl” works in media or in some other industry. But Cuomo admitted to the team investigating his brother that he’d pulled strings within journalism to see if he could find out if damaging new revelations were forthcoming:

“I would – when asked, I would reach out to sources, other journalists, to see if they had heard of anybody else coming out,” Cuomo told investigators…

Also in March, DeRosa texted Chris Cuomo: “Rumor going around from politico 1-2 more ppl coming out tomorrow. Can u check your sources?” The CNN primetime host responded: “On it.” He subsequently texted her: “No one has heard that yet.”

DeRosa and Chris Cuomo also discussed in March a yet-to-be published story from New Yorker investigative reporter Ronan Farrow. The article ran March 18.

Prior to that, DeRosa asked Chris Cuomo to check with his sources about the Farrow piece. The records do not show a direct response from Chris Cuomo agreeing to check with his sources. But on March 14, four days be the story was published, he texted DeRosa: “If If ronan has nothing better than boylan thats a great sign.”

Back in March, after Chris had asked Andrew aide Melissa DeRosa to let him help with “prep,” Chris drafted a statement for Andrew that appeared almost verbatim under Andrew’s name. I assume CNN reported on that statement at some point. Did anyone in-house knew who the true author was or that he was working as a comms secretary for a politician amid a scandal at the same time he was anchoring a primetime hour on their network?

Earlier this year, defending himself against charges of a conflict of interest, Chris said, “I never misled anyone about the information I was delivering or not delivering on this program. I never attacked nor encouraged anyone to attack any woman who came forward. I never made calls to the press about my brother’s situation.” He never did those things publicly, he meant. But away from the cameras he was clearly interested in attacks on women who came forward, which he hoped to hand off to Andrew’s team. And he might not have made calls to the press to try to spin them for Andrew but he did, obviously, make calls to them to see what they knew in hopes of helping to shape Andrew’s spin.

How can CNN let this go on?

What Zucker needs to consider is whether he wants his own anchors to follow what we might call “the Fox standard” on conflicts of interest. Fox anchors like Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Lou Dobbs famously chatted during off-hours with Trump while he was president and even informally advised him. Hannity was so influential, reportedly, that he was once described as the shadow chief of staff. CNN’s anchors and reporters are heavily invested in the idea that they behave more ethically than Fox’s journalists (at least the opinion journalists) do but Chris’s secret work for Andrew undermines that. If CNN wants to be purer than Fox — and it should want that — then there’s an obvious move to be made here. How about it?

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