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Cuomo brothers' fall from grace: Reckonings for abuse of power

Former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and former governor of New York Andrew Cuomo have gone from being praised and powerful to being disgraced and fired from the important jobs they held. – Photo by Governor Andrew Cuomo / Twitter

It was the pandemic summer of 2020.

One of my mother’s closest friends, a suburban mom from Illinois, smiled drily across the kitchen table at me as she excitedly told me about the stocking-stuffer that she used every morning: an Amazon-ordered porcelain mug that read in big, bold text “MRS. CUOMO.” 

The fates of the Cuomo brothers, Andrew and Chris Cuomo — a disgraced former governor of New York and a recently fired CNN nighttime anchor, respectively — have changed dramatically since the early days of the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. At first, they inspired eager breakfast time confessions. Now? They're embroiled in scandal.

In the latest of the many scandals surrounding the powerful family, it was revealed that Chris Cuomo advised his brother and his brother’s staff on how to navigate their response to the women who publicly accused the former governor of sexual assault, according to documents released by the New York State Attorney General’s Office. 

Most notably in the released documents, text messages between a former top aide to Andrew Cuomo, Melissa DeRosa and Chris Cuomo suggest that the latter looked to use his media connections to help his brother and his team. On March 7, 2021, DeRosa asked Chris Cuomo to check with other journalists, to which he responded, “On it.”

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

The new documents also showed Chris Cuomo editing some of the then-governor’s statements.

On Wednesday, Debora S. Katz, a prominent employment lawyer, told CNN about a client who claims that Chris Cuomo engaged in sexual misconduct with her, according to The New York Times. Katz's client was reportedly a former "junior colleague" of Chris Cuomo's at a network other than CNN.

CNN announced that Chris Cuomo was fired on Saturday. 

When asked about the new allegation against Chris Cuomo, the Times reports that a CNN spokeswoman said, “Based on the report we received regarding (Chris Cuomo's) conduct with his brother’s defense, we had cause to terminate. When new allegations came to us this week, we took them seriously, and saw no reason to delay taking immediate action.”

Chris Cuomo said in a statement, “This is not how I want my time at CNN to end but I have already told you why and how I helped my brother. So let me now say as disappointing as this is, I could not be more proud of the team at Cuomo Prime Time and the work we did as CNN's #1 show in the most competitive time slot. I owe them all and will miss that group of special people who did really important work."

The decision came after criticism from many, including seasoned journalists who expressed that Chris Cuomo violated accepted journalistic standards.

Any Rutgers journalism and media studies student knows that the primetime CNN anchor’s choice to use the resources gleaned from his position as a journalist to help his brother lacks the professionalism and commitment to truth that journalists are supposed to uphold. 

Chris Cuomo spoke about the original CNN action, which was a suspension effective last Tuesday, on “Let's Get After It with Chris Cuomo,” his SiriusXM satellite radio show. He said, “It hurts to even say it. It's embarrassing, but I understand it. And I understand why some people feel the way they do."

Charlotte Bennett, who accused Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment in February, called on the network to fire Chris Cuomo. She wrote in a statement uploaded on Twitter that “anything short of firing Chris Cuomo reflects a network lacking both morals and a backbone.” 

Andrew Cuomo resigned from his position as governor of New York on Aug. 10, just days after the New York State Attorney General Letitia James' Aug. 3 statement revealed that her investigation concluded that the former governor "sexually harassed multiple women and violated state law."

President Joseph R. Biden Jr., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and more than two-thirds of New York state senators called on Andrew Cuomo to resign.

The brothers were considered “the comedy routine America needs right now” back in the grim days of March 2020.

The brothers inspired a “Why We Are Crushing on Andrew Cuomo Right Now” Vogue article in March 2020 a little over a week after a particularly eyebrow-raising moment involved the brothers jokingly fighting over who their Mom loved more.

“I love you, I’m proud of what you’re doing, I know you’re working hard for your state,” Chris Cuomo said to his brother during a live interview. “But no matter how hard you’re working, there’s always time to call mom. She wants to hear from you. Just so you know."

“I called mom just before I came on this show,” then–Governor Cuomo said. ”By the way, she said I was her favorite. Good news is she said you are her second favorite. Second favorite son, Christopher.” 

But once you know the extent of the allegations of abuse of power against both brothers, those comedy bits aren't at all entertaining. They’re unprofessional and distracting. 

After a third victim came forward against Andrew Cuomo, Chris Cuomo said to his audience, on March 1, 2021 — almost a year after those unprofessional bouts — “Obviously, I am aware of what is going on with my brother. And obviously I cannot cover it because he is my brother. Now, of course CNN has to cover it. They have covered it extensively and they will continue to do so. I have always cared very deeply about these issues, and profoundly so. I just want to tell you that.”

During those early days, at a time when Americans were most vulnerable, anxiously sitting at home waiting to hear more information about a lethal virus, the Cuomo brothers were the voice of reason. No — to the public imagination, they were more than that: They were The Sexy (?) Saints of Sanity.

Now, through their public removal from government and corporate media, two of the most powerful instruments in America — the pair have perfectly displayed the ways that men in powerful positions will abuse their power.


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