Why CNN’s Chris Cuomo had to be fired, not just suspended

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UPDATE (4/12/2021 6:30 p.m. ET): This article has been updated throughout CNN’s decision to fire Chris Cuomo on Saturday night.

Overall, journalists realize that they have to behave in certain ways in order to gain the trust of the public. On a personal level, this means behaving ethically. Professionally, this means adhering to professional journalistic standards, such as telling the truth and avoiding conflicts of interest.

The journalism industry has identified the sharp decline in trust in traditional media as one of the most serious challenges to its survival.

It is more than just an exercise in good practice. The journalism industry identified the sharp drop in trust in traditional news media as one of the most serious challenges to its survival.

And that’s why the Chris Cuomo case is so damaging to CNN – and to the journalistic profession as a whole.

For months, Cuomo apparently worked his way through the rules that most journalists diligently follow, and so far he has suffered few serious consequences. He was allowed to flout the most sensible restrictions on conflict of interest by making buddy-comedy segments with his brother, Andrew, then governor of New York, who was leading what turned out to be a deeply flawed response to Covid-19.

When it was revealed that Chris Cuomo had violated CNN guidelines participating in strategic calls to help defend her brother against an ever-increasing number of sexual harassment charges, the star the anchor was scolded but not disciplined. Despite call to do it, CNN executives did not initially launch their own investigation into Cuomo’s behavior.

But now, newly released transcriptions and exhibits of the New York Attorney General’s investigation revealed the extent to which Chris Cuomo violated journalistic standards and public trust.

He aggressively advised his brother’s team on how to escape responsibility – effectively aiding and encouraging his brother’s allegedly abusive treatment of women. He used his position as a journalist to gather information – in a case about how far Ronan Farrow has come in his New Yorker article on the sex scandal. “I would contact sources, other journalists, to see if they had heard of anyone else,” he said. confirmed in an interview with state investigators. He looked for dirt on his brother’s accusers.

He lied flat on the air on August 16 when he assured his audience that “I have never attacked or encouraged anyone to attack a woman who has come forward. I have never called the press about my brother’s situation.”

He was apparently, in fact, fervently trying to help his brother even as he assured viewers – and his bosses – that he wasn’t.

Cuomo told state investigators his motive was altruistic. “That’s it for me: how can I protect my family? How can I help protect it? I probably should have thought more about how I protect myself, which never occurred to me. ” And some advocates have suggested that he was acting simply out of brotherly love. But brotherly love manifests itself in acts like arranging a private intervention, not engaging in public deception – and especially not when your work covers the news.

“It wasn’t about taking time off from your teaching job, say, to donate a life-saving kidney to your brother,” wrote the Washington Post media columnist Marguerite Sullivan. It was about the “Helping power, at the service of disrupting the investigation of potential crimes”.

And initially, Cuomo was only suspended by CNN – not fired. And for days it looked like the shot might not be on the table.

“It’s a complicated situation,” Brian Stelter, CNN’s chief media correspondent, said Wednesday. “I think the bottom line is that Cuomo is on the bench right now. We’re heading into a holiday season. I think it’s possible he may be on the bench for several weeks. he’ll be back in january. “

CNN executives, as stewards of one of today’s most important brands, have a deep obligation to hold Cuomo accountable and reaffirm their adherence to basic journalistic standards. Nothing less than the shot would achieve it. So why did they wait?

Part of it is because she’s a star who gets good grades. Part of the reason is that Cuomo and Network Chairman Jeff Zucker seem to have what the The Washington Post calls a “close” relationship, and Zucker was a steadfast supporter. But the even more powerful underlying reason becomes evident when you consider that only a powerful and privileged white man could have gotten away with a fraction of what Cuomo did. Women and people of color regularly have much bigger issues for far less.

Firing Cuomo is just the first step. CNN also owes us a public account of Cuomo’s mistakes – and his. It means a recognition of the serious drawbacks of keeping powerful white men on a different level.

But the problem is far bigger than CNN. Every day, the network wasn’t firing Cuomo, it was losing more trust – and its decline is hurting everyone in the industry.



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