Chris Cuomo admitted that his controversial CNN interviews last year with his embattled brother, ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, were a conflict of interest “all day long” — but still defended the segments, claiming viewers “knew it was my brother.”
The disgraced TV anchor — who was fired from CNN over his role in advising his older brother throughout a slew of sexual misconduct scandals — signaled that he did the series of fluffy TV chats on his 9 p.m. show at the behest of his former boss, Jeff Zucker.
“This idea that Chris Cuomo had no boss, Chris Cuomo did as he liked when he liked how he liked — these are people who don’t know our business,” Cuomo said in an interview with podcast “On with Kara Swisher.”
“Did I think that they should be considered a conflict of interest? Ab initio, inherently all day long,” he continued. “But there was complete transparency. You knew it was my brother.”
“When Jeff decided to have Andrew on, I believe it was the right call because the country was desperate and starved for comfort,” Cuomo added.
While Cuomo threw softball questions at his brother on the air, it came to light that Cuomo also secretly had been helping the ex-governor mount a media offensive, forcing the anchor to issue an apology for breaching the network’s journalistic standards.
“I apologized … because I was told by my bosses that people at work felt that I had compromised their ability to do their job,” he said. “I did not feel that. But being told that, I absolutely never intended that.”
Cuomo continued: “And if I had known going into it that me disclosing to my audience that I’m not going to cover my brother and he is my brother so I want to help him to the extent that I can, would’ve compromised CNN, I may have made different decisions.”
Asked about Zucker’s explosive resignation — which came after lawyers for Cuomo mentioned Zucker’s undisclosed romantic relationship with Allison Gollust — Cuomo said he was “not happy about it.”
Cuomo’s scorched-earth move enraged CNN staffers, including former friends, anchors Don Lemon and Jake Tapper, who were appalled that Cuomo “blew up CNN” and proverbially beheaded the network’s longtime king.
“It gave me no joy. I think he’s one of the best makers of television,” Cuomo said of Zucker. “I think he’s got one of the best heads for news I’ve ever been around. He gave me tremendous opportunities.”
When asked if Cuomo keeps in touch with the anchors or his former boss, he simply said: “Well, no. I mean, look, after Jeff fired me, I mean, there wasn’t a lot for us to talk about.”
Now, Cuomo finds himself a week away from anchoring a new 8 p.m. show on NewsNation, a fledgling network with a minuscule audience founded by Nexstar Media Group. Cuomo dismissed speculation that the new gig could ruin his chances at winning his multimillion-dollar arbitration against CNN.
“Well, do you believe that where I am now is equivalent to where I was?,” he said. “I’m talking to you in my dining room. I was the number one show at CNN and I would be recognized in Malawi as much as I would be in Milwaukee. That is a very different.”
The anchor was also skeptical of CNN’s new mandate under Zucker replacement Chris Licht and his new corporate overlords, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav and powerful investor and media mogul John Malone. The new brass has been scrapping left-leaning punditry made popular under Zucker in favor of more straight reporting.
“I have to see how it develops. They got great horses there [at CNN],” he said. “I don’t like the idea that they’re saying they’re going to be more middle ground. Look, I know that their new ownership had some reservations or concerns and there is some controversy surrounding that.”
He added that people in the media would like to see “CNN go down because it was so powerful” and that the media business is “often about tearing things down” as a “proxy for insight.”
Cuomo continued, “But I don’t believe in middle ground. I believe that there’s left and right and then there’s reasonable and usually the three are very distinguishable from one another. Again, it’s boring to people, it’s tedious.”