Former CNN primetime anchor Chris Cuomo says his infamous interviews with his brother were "inherently" a conflict of interest but argued that there was "complete transparency" because viewers knew he was family.
"Did I think that they should be considered a conflict of interest? Ab initio, inherently all day long. But there was complete transparency. You knew it was my brother," Cuomo told Kara Swisher on the "On With Kara Swisher" podcast.
In a conversation flagged by the New York Post, Swisher pressed Cuomo about an interview he did with his brother, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, D., on his primetime show during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The hindsight 2020 for me is that if I had known that a grudge would be harbored, because if we’re giving a fair reckoning, not many people spoke up loudly in the media about disapproving of my brother being on during that time. They did so later. And I think in that is something that needs to be owned as well. The reason that they didn’t come out in the moment was because it was very popular and powerful," Cuomo said.
Swisher asked Cuomo why he didn't speak up about it being a potential conflict of interest at the time, and he said that he "didn't feel it."
"If I knew that it was going to be harbored as a grudge the way it was I may have had much more profound concerns early on when I was asked to have my brother on. Very important phrase," Cuomo, who was fired from CNN in December, said.
Cuomo suggested there were no "regular" people complaining about his interviews with his brother, who was involved in the nursing home controversy in New York at the time. The Manhattan DA's office launched an investigation into Andrew Cuomo after New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report that said the New York Department of Health underreported COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%.
"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. When Jeff decided to have Andrew on, I believe it was the right call because the country was desperate and starved for comfort," he said. "I’ve never been thanked for any work that I’ve done the way I was for those interviews."
Swisher also asked Cuomo about when he finally did ask his brother on air about the nursing home scandal in New York.
"Nursing homes. People died there, they didn't have to, it was mismanaged and the operators have been given immunity. What do you have to say about that?" Cuomo asked his brother in June of 2020.
"Several statements that are not correct, but that's OK. It's your show, you say whatever you want to say," the former governor responded.
Swisher, who said it was a "softball question," asked Cuomo what he would ask him now about the scandal if he had the chance to "re-ask" the question.
"Look, the idea of did I give my brother a pass is an obvious rhetorical question. That was the real question. Other journalists were asking him questions at the time that were not as pointed as the one I asked him and I couldn’t even fairly cover it. Which should tell you something about the nature of media treatment of people in power in general, maybe," he said.
Andrew Cuomo stepped down after James launched a sexual harassment probe into the former New York governor. Her August 2021 report said he sexually harassed at least 11 women from 2013 to 2020.
Since CNN fired him, the younger Cuomo has launched his own podcast and is set to begin a show on NewsNation next month.