CNN critics mark one-year anniversary of Cuomo brothers' infamous nasal swab interview

Media top headlines May 20

Growing outcry over Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot only granting interviews to journalists of color and more round out today’s top media headlines

Thursday marks one year since one of the most infamous moments in recent news media history: CNN’s Chris Cuomo, jokingly waving oversized nasal swabs during a jovial interview with his older brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D.

In one of several interviews last year between the Cuomo brothers despite the clear conflict of interest – CNN’s Cuomo admitted he could not be objective covering his brother and called him the “best politician in the country” – the younger Cuomo teased his older brother about footage of a coronavirus test he got on camera, joking about the size of his nose.

“Tell people the truth. Come on, Love Guv,” CNN’s Cuomo said, as his brother laughed. “If you’re not going to answer questions, I’m going to have to reset. I thought there was going to be a little more transparency for the audience.”

A year later, no one is laughing at CNN or among media observers. Gov. Cuomo was under fire at the time for a nursing home policy that critics said led to thousands of avoidable COVID-19 deaths. Since then, state investigators have accused his administration of covering up nursing home death numbers from the federal government.

Yet CNN’s Cuomo was allowed to conduct the mostly chummy interviews at the outset of the pandemic, as the network lifted an earlier rule it had against its primetime star covering his powerful brother.

In 2021, though, as Gov. Cuomo became embroiled on scandals over not only his coronavirus work but also accusations of sexual harassment, CNN’s Cuomo announced he “obviously” couldn’t cover the story. Adding to the network pressure have been revelations that he and other family members of Gov. Cuomo got prioritized coronavirus tests last year when they were in scarce supply for other New Yorkers.

Outlets like the Washington Post and Associated Press have hit CNN in the months since for its decision-making on the interviews, which helped ratings and boosted Gov. Cuomo’s image. Though criticized in some corners of the press at the time, entertainment outlets delighted in their teasing and interplay; NBC’s TODAY gushed they provided “comic relief during a difficult time.”

The governor is now also under fire for the book he wrote about his leadership during the pandemic, with potential ethics issues surrounding its writing and criticism over the more than $5 million he will rake in from the deal.

Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean noted the anniversary Thursday and said the interview compelled her to speak out publicly against the Cuomo administration’s nursing home policy. Dean lost both of her in-laws to coronavirus in New York nursing homes and has called for Cuomo to face accountability for his conduct.

Other critics also noted the date, with conservative radio host Larry O’Connor mockingly calling it a testament to its “journalistic standards.”

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