Unethical Quote Of The Month: CNN

“We generally do not get involved in the medical decisions of our employees. However, it is not surprising that in the earliest days of a once-in-a-century global pandemic, when Chris was showing symptoms and was concerned about possible spread, he turned to anyone he could for advice and assistance, as any human being would.”

—-CNN spokesman Matt Dornic, in a jaw-dropping defense of anchor Chris Cuomo after it was revealed that he used  his brother’s influence to “cut in line” to get Wuhan virus testing when it was unavailable to the general public.

Earlier this week, the The Albany-Times Union and The Washington Post reported yet another scandal involving New York’s Francis Ford Coppola-redolant governor, Andrew Cuomo. As if the deadly NY nursing home cover-up and the expanding sexual harassment allegations were not more than enough, we learned that…

“High-level members of the state Department of Health were directed last year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to conduct prioritized coronavirus testing on the governor’s relatives as well as influential people with ties to the administration. Members of Cuomo’s family including his brother, his mother and at least one of his sisters were also tested by top health department officials — some several times.”

The governor, in short, manipulated state resources to ensure that his brother, CNN’s Chris Cuomo, received Wuhan virus testing when tests were scarce and generally unavailable. “The CNN anchor was swabbed by a top New York Department of Health doctor, who visited his Hamptons home to collect samples from him and his family,” WaPo reported. The test specimens from Andrew and other Cuomo family members were then rushed, in some cases driven by state police troopers to a state public health lab in Albany, where they were processed immediately. Some employees in the state health laboratory worked overtime late into the night to process the results for Cuomo family members whose roles in society, while hardly essential to New York or the public, were favored by the Governor of New York.

In particular, the CNN anchor got specialized medical attention while “media reports were full of accounts from New Yorkers desperate to get tested — including some with symptoms and recent travel history who were turned away because of scarcity.”

Glenn Greenwald neatly sums up the import of this beyond the obvious fact that this is another example of elected officials using their power and influence for personal gain:

For more than a year now, CNN’s promotion of “interviews” conducted by Chris Cuomo of his own brother — in which the CNN host repeatedly heaped lavish praise on Gov. Cuomo and even hyped him as a presidential contender while the Governor was corruptly and possibly criminally covering up COVID deaths — was one of the most glaring breaches of journalistic ethics imaginable…it aggressively deceived CNN’s audience. That they knew it was corrupt was evidenced by the CNN host’s recent announcement that he would not cover his brother’s recent scandals: what conceivable framework makes it journalistically permissible for a news host to shower his own brother with praise, but then not cover his scandals?

But now Chris Cuomo is directly involved in a serious abuse of power scandal by his brother: in fact, he’s the prime beneficiary of that scandal. He sought special medical favors from his brother, depriving other sick people more in need of it than he, by exploiting the fact that his brother is Governor and thus rules the state. That’s a scandal by any measure — one involving not only the Governor but also the CNN host.

What’s even more remarkable is that on May 6 — just weeks after Gov. Cuomo provided special COVID testing and treatment for him — Chris Cuomo “interviewed” his brother and began the interviewing by noting that New York State lacks the resources to provide COVID testing to the public at large. So not only did they conceal that they had both just used state resources to get Chris that scarce testing, but they both acknowledged that there was a resource shortage to serve the general public, even as Gov. Cuomo was lavishing those resources on his own family.

Now read CNN’s response again.

The network actually defends the conflict of interest, the deception, the hypocrisy—all of it–with a series of flagrant illicit rationalizations and deceptions of its own:

  • This wasn’t just a “medical decision.” It was a decision by the CNN anchor to abuse his position by exploiting a connection to a newsmaker and to become part of an abuse of power by the newsmaker–all while lavishly praising him as he bestowed benefits on the journalist and his family. Chris Cuomo had knowledge of events and official conduct that as a journalist he was ethically obligated to report, and did not. “Medical decision!”
  • “It is not surprising”...The fact that unethical conduct and corruption “isn’t surprising” is not a mitigating factor. From a serial boob and preening incompetent like Chris Cuomo, on a joke of a journalism organization like CNN, almost no outrage should be “surprising.” The only reason “It’s no surprise” isn’t an enumerated rationalization on the Ethics Alarms list is that it’s included in so many, notably the first one, “Everybody does it.” Professionals are supposed to be trustworthy by definition. For CNN to admit it isn’t surprising that its most prominent employees cannot be trusted is a damning admission.
  • “A once-in-a-century global pandemic”—Let’s see: #28, The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times,” #31, The Troublesome Luxury, or “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now,” #32B The Comforting Accusation” or “You would have done the same thing!CNN hits the jackpot with this one: three rationalizations in just seven words!
  • “As any human being would”…CNN likes “Everybody does it so much it evokes it twice, plus #11. (a) “I deserve this!” or “Just this once!”, #13A The Road To Hell, or “I meant well,”#23 A. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants,”# 32. The Unethical Role Model: “He/She would have done the same thing,”, #32B The Comforting Accusation” or “You would have done the same thing!”(again), #38. The Miscreant’s Mulligan or “Give him a break!,” #41. The Evasive Tautology, or “It is what it is,” # 52. The Hippie’s License, or “If it feels good, do it!” (“It’s natural”), and #58. The Golden Rule Mutation, or “I’m all right with it!” Journalists aren’t supposed to act like “any human being would.” They are trusted exactly because they are obligated  to act better than “any human being.” The same holds for elected public officials. CNN doesn’t comprehend its own field.

I’ll leave the final verdict to Greenwald, who agrees that slimy and unethical, corrupt conduct on the part of the Cuomos should be expected, but that CNN’s reaction is even more revolting:

How can a news outlet credibly claim to denounce and expose abuse of power by political officials when they defend the participation in such corruption by their own on-air talent? CNN is telling the public that they see nothing wrong with their rich and well-connected anchors exploiting public resources or connections to powerful politicians to corruptly obtain medical treatment at the expense of everyone else. That is as grotesque as it is damaging to CNN’s brand.

My only disagreement with Greenwald’s analysis is that a network that employs the incompetent and unethical trio of Cuomo, Don Lemon and Brian Stelter can be said to have a “brand” to damage.

4 thoughts on “Unethical Quote Of The Month: CNN

  1. Greenwald: “…it aggressively deceived CNN’s audience”.

    It shouldn’t have. Any audience member with working ethics alarms should have been concerned, as you and many commenters were, about the optics of Chris interviewing Andrew. They should have noticed the softball-lobbing Smothers Brothers routine was not real journalism and should have been confined to the Cuomo family’s Zoom chats…assuming they bothered to do the social distancing they expected of everyone else.

    But American audiences, and CNN’s audience in particular, don’t seem to understand that journalism is not supposed to be entertaining and that a politician is not supposed to be interviewed by his own brother, especially if there’s no real interview going on. They’ve been corrupted for years and have allowed it to happen. They’ve deceived themselves.

    • I will go further and say that loyal Democrats actually like this. They agree that people like Chris Cuomo should get special treatment. They agree that governor’s should give special benefits to their families. Loyal Democrats see nothing wrong with Hunter Biden using his father’s positions to get lucrative deals. Remember, what we are calling corruption is accepted and appreciated by many cultures around the world and the Democratic Party is one of those cultures. When you are a totalitarian at heart, there is no difference between a Governor using the resources of the state to help their family and a wealthy businessman using his fortune to help his family. Politicians ‘own’ the state and own us the same way a businessman may own his fortune.

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