Nothing is more awkward than a media reporter trying to report on his or her own media outlet, and Brian Stelter looked very awkward on Saturday night reporting on Chris Cuomo’s sudden Saturday firing.
“Yes, Chris Cuomo, one of the most popular anchors at CNN, one of the best-known names in television news, violated journalistic ethics and norms. Not once or twice but many times. And that’s ultimately what is the result of today’s news, Jim."
Wait – that would mean that Stelter and his CNN Media Unit somehow missed the vast majority of those “many times.”
Stelter told Acosta that the firing was “a big surprise for a lot of people. I didn’t expect to be on with you this evening talking about this breaking news,” and he insisted there wasn’t a “fake suspension to take press off CNN.” And then an outside firm found something that was “found to be a serious breach of standards and practices.” But then, everyone following Cuomo has known that for months.
Then there was the usual hypocritical non-transparency from CNN. Stelter claimed “to be completely transparent with the audience, it says there’s additional information that also came to light sometime this week. We don’t know what that is. I’ve asked, there's no answers coming on what that could be.”
Acosta wondered: “Do we know when this new information might be brought out to the public and will have a sense as to what this additional information was?”
“I don’t know actually if it ever will,” Stelter admitted. “I think that’s very much unclear. Certainly in the years I've spent covering media, we know companies try to keep these things as private as possible." It's always fascinating when media companies won't talk.
In the 6 pm hour, Stelter added another note of the overwhelming math of Cuomo's transgressions. "Ultimately, there were so many headaches here, so many journalistic fouls that management decided it was untenable for him to remain with the company. Television anchors do come and go, Phil, but Cuomo was a larger than life presence on this network and there's going to be a lot of feelings about this decision, I think, in the days to come."
STELTER at 6 pm Saturday on CNN being dragged kicking and screaming on Chris Cuomo: "Ultimately, there were so many headaches here, so many journalistic fouls that management decided it was untenable for him to remain with the company." pic.twitter.com/hReUWQKthB— Tim Graham (@TimJGraham) December 5, 2021
With Cuomo fired and Rachel Maddow on the way out of a nightly show at that same hour, Stelter said "That's going to be a television news insider story but the more important outsider story, the reason this matters to everybody is that viewers need to be able to trust what they're hearing here on television, when we're covering a sensitive story, even if it involves the family member of a colleague. This case was very, very complicated, and now in some ways, Phil, it's been made a lot less complicated because Cuomo has been terminated.”
In the 7 pm hour, Stelter announced This is a matter of journalistic ethics and standards, about what CNN could tolerate over time." That's the most honest statement so far.
STELTER in the 7 pm hour, slips into honesty, saying the Chris Cuomo Problem was an ethical matter, but maybe about how much embarrassment CNN could tolerate on an installment plan: “This is a matter of journalistic ethics and standards, about what CNN could tolerate over time.” pic.twitter.com/avBOKlZ2dp— Tim Graham (@TimJGraham) December 5, 2021
PS: Overnight, the New York Times reported what may be that "additional information," that lawyer Debra Katz -- who also represented Charlotte Bennett, an accuser of Andrew Cuomo -- "informed CNN of a client with an allegation of sexual misconduct against Chris Cuomo. Ms. Katz said in a statement on Saturday that the allegation against the anchor....was made by a former junior colleague at another network." Stelter noted that allegation on air Sunday morning, adding the outside law firm informed CNN that Cuomo could be fired for cause.
CNN's unfolding and belated shame was brought to you in part by Ensure.