Wednesday, June 19, 2024

CNN Managed to Finally Do Right in Firing Anchor Chris Cuomo and Still Managed to Get So Much Wrong.

December 6, 2021 by  
Filed under News, Politics, Weekly Columns

( Last night the news broke that CNN had made the corporate decision to terminate its relationship with beleaguered on-air pundit Chris Cuomo. It was a move that was both a long time in coming and something that should have been addressed over one year ago. While the move is proper, based on the mounting evidence against him, CNN still manages to come off looking poorly with the way this has been handled and in the way it has not been handled.

There was a week-long investigation that led to the network going public with the decision late on a Saturday afternoon, in classic document-dump fashion. There was some amusement to be had however that the news was broken on their airwaves by two of CNN’s polarizing figures, Jim Acosta, and Brian Stelter. But men had a measure of pain visible in their reports.

Stelter here says a number of things that underscore the issues the network has displayed for at least a year and a half regarding the problematic pundit. Stelter displays much of the excuse-making and deflections we have seen this year, used to justify keeping Cuomo on the air. “Chris Cuomo…violated journalistic ethics – not once or twice – but many times. And that ultimately what is the result of today’s news.” This begins to expose much of the problem.

If Cuomo had been this kind of recidivist in terms of impropriety of reporting – and we know he has – then how did his escapades fail to garner attention from CNN’s media analyst all this time? Stelter here called Saturday’s announcement as a big surprise as if he is an outside player with no contacts whatsoever at CNN. During any of Cuomo’s issues this year Stelter had been very hands-off. He had little to say in March as Andrew Cuomo’s scandal emerged, then this summer, when Chris was revealed to have been an active participant, Brian did more deflection than introspection on his program.

Note in the above segment when he makes mention of Chris being taken off the air earlier in the week. “We did know that Cuomo had been suspended. Not just for a week – not in the kind of way of a ‘fake’ suspension. This is a real suspension.” What you hear in this segment is Stelter attempting to writhe out of his prior statements in defense of Cuomo. This summer, when Cuomo was exposed as a major player in his brother’s affairs, Stelter tried to suggest that the network simply saying they were disappointed in Chris was sufficient punishment.

Now look as he has to suggest that Cuomo’s suspension this week was somehow different than those other suspensions. He takes no effort to explain what makes this suspension ‘real’, and the others fake, but let’s allow him his delusion that he has made some kind of point. This follows suit with other reports where Stelter hinted at an inability to reach his sources to find out more as if he did not work at CNN and was stymied by assistants not returning his emails.

The network used Stelter as its shield, having him as the mouthpiece saying how unprecedented all of this had been and why there were no easy answers. Recall Stelter appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in August and he was defending the man, insisting that Cuomo did in fact display journalistic boundaries.

This level of denial and deflection was taking place for a lengthy time. It was apparent the network was hoping to ride out this scandal until it dissipated. Instead, their infection was permitted to grow and fester, and as a result, CNN is mocked today as a news outlet not at all taking journalism seriously. What is permitted and defended by the outlet defies proper ethics. It is heightened by the remaining appearances of Jeffrey Toobin and exacerbated by continuous double standards on display.

CNN in general, and Stelter in particular, love to hurl accusations at Fox News for supposedly lacking media propriety. Yet all the while we have learned they were engaging in the very actions they claim to deplore, and they defended and hid the realities when the violations came to light. This weekend’s movement to finally remove Cuomo from the air feels like the hands at CNN were forced by higher executive authorities.

As I wrote days ago, as CNN expresses surprise and held the belief that Cuomo would ultimately return, his fate may have been sealed by the new parent conglomerate Warners-Discovery Media. That entity has a standards and practices guidebook that lays out the inappropriateness of Cuomo’s actions, so even if CNN was unwilling to act properly, the bigger parties appear to have been the ones to enforce standards.

That is the ultimate takeaway from the enduring Chris Cuomo drama. CNN has proven itself as an unwilling participant when it comes to journalism ethics and displaying professional standards.

Columnist; Brad Slager 

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