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Coverage Of The Claims Against Gov. Cuomo Is Everywhere — Except His Brother's Show

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

CNN has aggressively covered findings of sexual harassment against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The role of Cuomo's brother, CNN star anchor Chris Cuomo, is also being scrutinized. NPR's David Folkenflik has this story.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: On CNN's 8 p.m. hour, host John Berman didn't pull any punches about the trouble New York's Governor Cuomo was in.

(SOUNDBITE OF CNN BROADCAST)

JOHN BERMAN: Allegations more damning than I think Albany reporters and Democratic politicians were expecting...

FOLKENFLIK: And here was CNN's Don Lemon at 10 p.m.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DON LEMON TONIGHT")

DON LEMON: Question - should Governor Andrew Cuomo resign?

FOLKENFLIK: In between the two shows, the governor's younger brother - and here's how he kicked off his program.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PRIME TIME")

CHRIS CUOMO: I'm Chris Cuomo. Welcome to "Prime Time." We're focused on COVID here.

FOLKENFLIK: Chris Cuomo's show is often the most watched program on all CNN - not a mention throughout the entire hour last night of the governor's troubles - nada.

In her damning report, State Attorney General Letitia James says Chris Cuomo participated in strategizing sessions for Andrew Cuomo, including on how the governor should respond to accusations from several accusers, meaning Chris Cuomo played a role in shaping what would be put out to his peers in the press and even his CNN colleagues.

SID BEDINGFIELD: I would have liked for him to have been transparent, open with his viewers about the advice, how he was advising his brother, the governor.

FOLKENFLIK: Sid Bedingfield is a former executive vice president for CNN, now a journalism professor at the University of Minnesota. Yet Bedingfield says he wasn't surprised by Cuomo's role. He notes that when Chris joined CNN in 2013, the network announced he would not cover Andrew Cuomo, already governor.

BEDINGFIELD: To me, that was pretty close to an admission that Chris Cuomo would be unable of covering his brother fairly, that he could not be unbiased or that he could not provide criticism of his brother's administration.

FOLKENFLIK: Criticism, no - but in spring 2020, at the height of the COVID crisis, CNN encouraged Chris Cuomo's fraternal love fest with the governor with 11 lengthy, teasing and affectionate segments spread out over several months.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PRIME TIME")

ANDREW CUOMO: She did the swab. I did not flinch. I was a cool dude in a loose mood - didn't move, anything.

CUOMO: Of course you were.

FOLKENFLIK: Governor Cuomo's missteps and misleading statements about nursing homes only attained full scrutiny later. Chris Cuomo and CNN have not offered any public comment about yesterday's report by the attorney general or about the host's role. This past May, after news of his advising the governor first came to light, Chris Cuomo said he put family first and jobs second, but apologized to his colleagues for participating in strategy sessions with the governor's inner circle.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PRIME TIME")

CUOMO: I understand why that was a problem for CNN. It will not happen again. It was a mistake because I put my colleagues here, who I believe are the best in the business, in a bad spot.

FOLKENFLIK: CNN has since reinstated the ban on Cuomo interviewing Cuomo. Four CNN journalists tell NPR, the network should have had someone else substitute to cover yesterday's news. Instead, here's what it sounded like as Chris Cuomo gave weight to the next show's host, Don Lemon.

(SOUNDBITE OF CNN BROADCAST)

LEMON: I love you, brother.

CUOMO: I love you, D-Lemon.

LEMON: All right.

FOLKENFLIK: Once Cuomo was off-screen, Lemon went straight to the day's news.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DON LEMON TONIGHT")

LEMON: This is "Don Lemon Tonight." The calls are getting louder and louder. This is what I'm talking about - top Democrats from New York to the White House calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign. That in the wake of...

FOLKENFLIK: One of the top stories of the day everywhere but on the highly watched show of the governor's brother.

David Folkenflik, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.