CNN anchor Chris Cuomo must surely know there is no easier way to avoid a conflict of interest than letting one of his "New Day" co-anchors interview his brother, New York Governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate Andrew Cuomo. But acting like a CNN bigfoot after just months at the network, Cuomo insists on interviewing Cuomo (repeatedly). On Monday, he had an e-mail fit with Lloyd Grove of The Daily Beast after he interviewed Gov. Cuomo about the train derailment in New York. That's six days after he interviewed his brother for being named "Sexiest Fifty-something" by People magazine.
“Obviously I did the intv because it was non political, and frankly, I invite the criticism—because it exposes the hollowness of a lot of what is out there,” he began.
“Critics say my intv was no diff than any other and then criticize anyway,” he continued. “Think about that. I get the obvious suspicion, but the media has to do better than simply cater to the obvious…and pawn off negativity as a proxy for insight.” He added in his huff: “I am good at my job...And believe it or not, i go at everyone the same way.”
But critics didn't all say it was no different than any other. Erik Wemple of The Washington Post declared Cuomo was easier on his brother than Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC and there's no such thing as a "nonpolitical" interview (add that 2016 echo on top):
There’s no such thing as a non-political interview with a sitting politician. It’s just impossible. Politicians often are defined by the way they address their constituents in times of crisis, whether it’s a train derailment, a hurricane or something even more horrible. Such events are more political than a campaign kickoff or sponsorship of a piece of legislation. Everyone at CNN knows that, too. As a matter of fact, a politician’s response to tragedy is often more politically charged than many other topics addressed by a cable-news network. So let’s just throw out that defense before trudging any further.
Yes, the segment wouldn’t have generated any discussion if the last names hadn’t matched up. At the same time, it’s not hard to find spots where Chris Cuomo appears to place his thumb on the scale just a touch. In the first minute, Chris Cuomo observes how his brother “hurried down to the scene.” In the fifth minute, he repeated that pro-governor point: “When you went to the scene — you got there very quickly yesterday — what was it like?” In signing off, Chris Cuomo said, “It is no small irony that just in August, you were training with the National Guard for these types of situations. Who knew that just three months later, the training would have to be put into practice.”
To see how an interview with Gov. Cuomo might proceed at the hands of a non-family member, try this one by Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski. She doesn’t note that the governor made it to the scene quickly and pushes him about the trains’ maintenance (video below).
Chris Cuomo doesn’t host “New Day” all by himself. Is there any reason that co-host Kate Bolduan couldn’t have handled this interview? The Erik Wemple Blog posed that question to CNN and got this response from a network source: “Chris and the [executive producer] chose to do the interview. They wanted to do the interview”.
Inside Cable News didn't have a problem with the interview, but thinks inviting the controversy is pointless:
The reason there are conflict of interest rules in place isn’t just to prevent real, substantive conflict of interest charges being thrown around but to prevent perceived, relatively meritless conflict of interest charges being tossed about which distract from the interview and cause PR grief for networks. Under such circumstances, the negatives outweigh the positives to be gained. Why invite a controversy that is easily prevented by giving the interview to Kate Bolduan or Michaela Pereira? If the interview is that benign it doesn’t really matter who does it so why paint a target on your back un-necessarily?
It’s better to have a blanket black and white zero tolerance conflict of interest policy than to have a shades of gray “it depends on what your definition of is is” conflict of interest policy that only serves to invite un-needed scrutiny.
Chris Cuomo is clearly asking: "Who runs my program? Do I get to run my program or are we going to let jerks on Twitter decide who I get to interview?" CNN boss Jeff Zucker clearly doesn't care how much his network looks like a Democrat-promoting playground of conflicts. Perhaps their motto is "There is no conflict of interest when we all share the interest of electing Democrats."
Chris has clearly built his career on his daddy's name, and now he's building his brand on his brother's name as well. If he's not a "hollow" anchor exploiting his family name for a fat cable-news contract, then perhaps he should be an actual pro and let someone else interview his family members as they run for president.
UPDATE: Chris also lashed out on Twitter when conservatives knocked his previous sexy-brother interview:
— Chris Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) November 26, 2013