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Timeline of Cuomo scandals reveals CNN’s involvement in pushing glowing narrative of embattled governor

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D., has been accused of everything from botching his state’s coronavirus response to sexual harassment to fudging data from his controversial decision that’s been charged with contributing to thousands of nursing home deaths – but CNN had previously built him up as a liberal hero and a timeline of events reveals the network’s role in dueling scandals.

The once-popular governor was regularly praised by members of the liberal media with his kid brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo, and the liberal network leading the charge. The harassment scandal has forced many members of the media to turn on Cuomo, but many critics feel CNN played a part in emboldening him.

“CNN deserves all the mockery in the world for how they handled this … they couldn’t have done more to push that narrative that Cuomo was doing a great job,” Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway said Sunday on “Media Buzz.”

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“The media completely lied, CNN was a huge part of that in how they pushed this narrative that was at odds with the facts,” Hemingway said.

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and his big brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, famously joked around with giant cotton swabs while ignoring the Empire State’s nursing home crisis.

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and his big brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, famously joked around with giant cotton swabs while ignoring the Empire State’s nursing home crisis.

March 26-30, 2020

The Wall Street Journal first reported on March 26 that Cuomo’s administration informed nursing-home operators that they would be required to accept patients infected with coronavirus. The Journal noted the decision “will draw pushback from some nursing-home officials, who have warned that such moves endanger residents who aren’t infected by the virus, because discharged patients may still be contagious.”

Gov. Cuomo’s next appearance on his brother’s show was March 30. The siblings discussed Trump’s response to the pandemic, the availability of hospital beds, and personal protective equipment (PPE), but Chris Cuomo never asked about the already controversial nursing home decision.

The CNN host instead asked his big brother if he planned on running for president during a comical exchange in which the siblings bickered over whether the governor had thought about challenging Trump. The Cuomo brothers then discussed their mother’s tomato sauce, argued over who helped their mother in the kitchen growing up, and joked that “meatball” is a term of endearment in any Italian family.

“You’ve always been the meatball of the family,” Gov. Cuomo said.

The Wall Street Journal report and nursing homes were never discussed.

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April 20-22, 2020

Gov. Cuomo on April 20 oddly claimed he did not know his own state’s policy on admitting or readmitting to people who had tested positive for coronavirus into nursing homes. On that date, the New York Post reported “that at least 3,316 people in nursing homes and adult care facilities had died” since the start of the pandemic.

Two days later Cuomo appeared on his little brother’s show to discuss a meeting he had with President Trump. The Cuomo siblings playfully bickered about whether or not a phone call counts as a meeting, the governor boasted that New York had ramped up its coronavirus testing, and they discussed the pros and cons of the Empire State being locked down. They also spent time discussing the boyfriend of Gov. Cuomo’s daughter and teased each other about being sensitive, but they never mentioned the nursing home situation or the rising death rate.

“I like the boyfriend. The dog does not like the boyfriend. I don’t know what the dog senses that I haven’t. But the dog doesn’t like the boyfriend. But I like the boyfriend,” the governor said at one point.

The CNN anchor shot back, “How did you get so warm? How did you get so warm and cuddly all the sudden? You have become a real feely guy, you know that? You’ve become very sensitive.”

CNN’s Cuomo ended the chat by calling his big brother “Dr. Sensitivo” without ever asking about the nursing home crisis.

May 10-13, 2020

On May 10, Gov. Cuomo reversed the nursing home policy amid intense pressure with an executive order that blocked hospitals from releasing patients back into nursing homes unless the patient tests negative for coronavirus. At the time, NBC News reported that 5,300 New Yorkers living in nursing homes had already died from the virus.

The governor appeared on his brother’s CNN show three days later to joke around while talking about the re-opening of some states, White House Coronavirus Task Force guidelines, funding to combat the virus, and how much the siblings love each other while skipping the nursing home scandal.

The CNN host teased his brother, “Looking a little beat up, Guv, I told you this was going to happen. I told you, you were going to get tired, fighting back the tide of feelings.”

The nursing home policy reversal was never mentioned and the CNN host propped up his brother’s handling of the pandemic.

“I know that you don’t take yourself seriously, but you take the job very seriously. That’s what this situation demands. I love you. Thank you for coming on the show,” Chris Cuomo said to wrap up the chat.

“Love you, brother,” the governor replied as the CNN anchor reiterated, “I love you, big brother.”

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May 15-20, 2020

The Daily Caller first reported on May 15 that New York “omitted an unknown number of coronavirus deaths in recent reports regarding residents of nursing home and adult care facilities,” noting that people who died after being taken to a hospital were not counted.  

“The revelation comes as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces criticism for ordering nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to accept patients from hospitals who had tested positive for coronavirus. Cuomo rescinded the March 25 order, which experts say led to higher levels of death among nursing home residents, on May 11 to allow such facilities to wait until a coronavirus patient tests negative before readmitting them,” Daily Caller investigative reporter Andrew Kerr wrote.

On May 20, Gov. Cuomo claimed the nursing home debacle was a result of federal guidance, which PolitiFact labeled “mostly false.”

Hours after the governor’s dubious claim and only five days after the Daily Caller bombshell, Gov. Cuomo appeared on his brother’s CNN program again for a prop comedy routine that would quickly become infamous. CNN’s Cuomo famously pulled out a series of oversized Q-Tips to mock his big brother, who had recently received a coronavirus nasal swab test on television.

The CNN host held up the first Q-Tip prop and barely contained himself as he asked, “Is it true that this was the swab that the nurse was actually using on you, and that, at first, it went into your nose, and disappeared, so that in scale, this was the actual swab that was being used to fit up that double-barrel shotgun that you have mounted on the front of your pretty face?”

The governor burst out laughing as his CNN host sibling pulled out an even larger cotton swab.

“Tell people the truth, come on, Luv Guv,” Chris Cuomo said, “Was it this?”

The nursing home scandal was never addressed and images of the Cuomo siblings laughing while the CNN host waved a giant cotton swab has since emerged as a symbol of CNN’s credibility crisis surrounding its coverage of New York’s governor.

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June 24, 2020

Gov. Cuomo appeared on his brother’s show for the first time after CNN was widely condemned for allowing the prop comedy and the “Cuomo Prime Time” namesake finally addressed the nursing home crisis with a flippant question that was quickly dismissed.

“Nursing homes, people died there. They didn’t have to. It was mismanaged,” the CNN host said. “And the operators have been given immunity. What do you have to say about that?”

The governor casually shot back, “Several statements that are not correct. But that’s OK. It’s your show. You say whatever you want to say.”

Gov. Cuomo then declared “New York is one of the best cases in the nation for the number of deaths in nursing homes” and he took personal responsibility for the tragedy.

“The nursing homes were the most tragic situation. You had senior citizens. They were the most vulnerable to this COVID virus. They were in a congregate setting. And we lost lives, all across the country, in nursing homes. There is no doubt,” the governor said.

“And we have to figure out how to do it better the next time because there will be a next time, either a second wave, or another disease. And if it is a disease that preys on the old, and the weak, it’s going to go to the nursing homes and the rehab centers,” the governor continued. “New York is one of the best cases in the nation for the number of deaths in nursing homes. The New York Times did a report, said we were 35th out of 50 States. We did a report, in the State, that we’re going to issue that says we’re 37 out of 50 States. So, comparative to the other States, we did well, because it is a national crisis. But it’s – it’s false hope. We lost a tremendous amount of senior citizens.”

CNN’s Cuomo then declared, “I’m wowed by what you did. And, more importantly, I’m wowed by how you did it. This was very hard. I know it’s not over. But obviously, I love you as a brother. Obviously, I’ll never be objective. Obviously, I think you’re the best politician in the country. But I hope you feel good about what you did for your people.”

August 12, 2020

As the governor stopped appearing on his brother’s CNN show, New York’s coronavirus death toll in nursing homes began to come into question by mainstream outlets. The Associated Press reported the deaths could be “significantly” undercounted.

“So far the administration of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has refused to divulge the number, leading to speculation the state is manipulating the figures to make it appear it is doing better than other states and to make a tragic situation less dire,” the AP reported.

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January 28-29, 2021

A report released by New York Attorney General Letitia James revealed that Cuomo’s state Department of Health may have underreported COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50 percent. However, CNN’s primetime lineup completely ignored the report.

As the news broke, only two of CNN’s afternoon programs addressed the James’ report, collectively clocking in only eight minutes and 18 seconds of coverage.

CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza was even mocked on social media for his suggestion that Cuomo’s coronavirus response “may have been less stellar than it seemed” when many critics pointed out that it was CNN propping up the governor in the first place. 

February 11-17, 20201

On Feb. 11, The New York Post reported that a top aide to governor Cuomo told leading state Democratic lawmakers that the administration had withheld data on COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes to avoid federal scrutiny. The revelation prompted condemnations and even talk of impeachment in Albany, the state’s capital.

Gov. Cuomo directly addressed the Post bombshell for the first time on Feb. 15, noting that his administration created a void in data by withholding information but not apologizing.

The Washington Post reported that CNN had conveniently reinstated a rule that the “Cuomo Prime Time” host is not allowed to cover his big brother.

“The early months of the pandemic crisis were an extraordinary time. We felt that Chris speaking with his brother about the challenges of what millions of American families were struggling with was of significant human interest. As a result, we made an exception to a rule that we have had in place since 2013 which prevents Chris from interviewing and covering his brother, and that rule remains in place today. CNN has covered the news surrounding Governor Cuomo extensively,” a CNN spokesperson told the Washington Post.

Post media writer Erik Wemple was among the many who criticized CNN’s decision.

“The CNN statement is an expression of the problem itself: You can’t nullify a rule when your star anchor’s brother is flying high, only to invoke it during times of scandal. You just can’t,” Wemple wrote.

February 24-25, 20201

CNN ignored sexual harassment allegations leveled against Gov. Cuomo for more than 24 hours before reporting the news with a brief update that echoed the governor’s talking points about his accuser and emphasized Cuomo’s denial.

CNN’s website came under fire for waiting roughly 24 hours to cover the allegations, too, and critics pointed out Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh didn’t receive the same cushy treatment when he was accused of sexual misconduct in 2018.

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March 1, 2021

As sexual harassment accusations against Gov. Cuomo piled up, CNN’s Cuomo opened his program by informing viewers he was aware of the situation but “obviously” wouldn’t cover it.

“You’re straight with me. I’ll be straight with you,” the “Cuomo Prime Time” host said. “Obviously I’m aware of what is going on with my brother. And obviously I cannot cover it because he is my brother. Now, of course, CNN has to cover it. They have covered it extensively and they will continue to do so.”

CNN’s Cuomo hit the airwaves moments after The New York Times published a report that a third woman had accused his brother of making inappropriate advances toward her at a 2019 wedding reception. The week prior, two former aides accused Cuomo of sexual harassment during their time in his administration and two additional women have since come forward.

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March 7, 2021

The mainstream media has largely turned on Cuomo, as the dueling scandals plaguing him are among the most significant news stories in the country. The story has a unique media angle, as Gov. Cuomo went from darling of the liberal media to a villain in less than a year. However, CNN’s in-house media pundit Brian Stelter didn’t bother to mention it on his show, “Reliable Sources,” that claims to cover the media industry.   

Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn and David Rutz contributed to this report.

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