On the menu today: a soup-to-nuts indictment of the Cuomo brothers, anti-Semitic violence in the streets of America’s biggest cities, a familiar face returns to the NFL, and a counterargument on those flying objects that are not yet identified.
The Worst Governor of This Century, and the Worst Anchor on Television
As I’ve noted, you’d have to look far and wide to find a publication that has covered and discussed New York governor Andrew Cuomo as thoroughly, skeptically, critically, and even furiously as National Review. The past year and a half has been a period of spectacular upheaval in American life, but somewhere in the top-five revelations is the fact that the governor most praised and celebrated by the national media during the pandemic was probably the very worst among them.
Cuomo enacted a policy from late March to May 2020 forcing nursing homes to accept coronavirus-positive patients after they were discharged from hospitals, causing the virus to spread like wildfire among elderly nursing-home residents. One study found that more than 6,300 coronavirus-positive patients were readmitted to nursing homes, and that more than 5,700 nursing-home residents died between April 12 and June 4. “In the upstate region, facilities that admitted at least one positive patient during this period accounted for 82 percent of coronavirus deaths among nursing home residents, even though they had only 32 percent of the residents.”
Cuomo and his aides attempted to prevent the New York State Health Department from releasing the true number of coronavirus victims in nursing homes for at least five months. The FBI and Department of Justice are investigating whether Cuomo and his staff misled the federal government when it provided data on COVID-19-related deaths of nursing-home residents. Cuomo’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, admitted to New York legislators that the administration had withheld information from them about the true number of nursing-home deaths because it feared a DOJ investigation.
One study concluded that New York state suffered the worst combination of excess deaths and job losses out of all 50 states.
State troopers were used to rush testing samples of Cuomo family members to a lab for expedited processing.
Separate from the pandemic, nine women, including several former aides, a member of the Executive Chamber staff, a wedding-reception guest, a current aide, and a former reporter in Albany have accused Cuomo of sexually harassing them. The accusations were so plausible and numerous that Cuomo allies such as Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand saw no other option than to call for his resignation.
Cuomo’s initial response to the accusations was to agree to appoint someone to investigate himself. Cuomo aides allegedly leaked the personnel file of a former staffer to the press after her sexual-harassment accusations went public. As the accusations piled up, the head of New York’s vaccine-distribution effort called county officials to assess their loyalty to Cuomo.
And after all that, Cuomo is set to be paid more than $5 million for his victory-lap book, one that he allegedly misused state resources to write, having state employees help him write it during working hours.
Our entire system for how a public official is supposed to be held accountable for his actions broke down completely. Cuomo emoted effectively in his first press conferences during the pandemic, and a whole lot of people in major national media and quite a few New Yorkers decided they loved him. Some people changed their minds about him, but not nearly enough.
I get why Democrats look at Donald Trump’s supporters in the Republican Party and gasp, with outrage, derision, and disbelief, “How can they still support that guy? Don’t they want to hold him accountable for anything he’s done?” But what few of them can see is that the same phenomenon of unflinching loyalty and reflexive dismissal of misbehavior flourishes on their side, too. This week, 71 percent of New York City Democrats told a pollster they approve of the job Cuomo is doing.
But now there is a new and fascinating wrinkle to all this, as we now know there is no longer a boundary separating CNN’s prime-time programming and the governor’s office. Andrew Cuomo popped up on his brother’s show so often during the pandemic, you would think CNN’s 8 p.m. hour had become an Albany-based, government-affairs-focused, public-access television. That is, until the wacky prop comedy began, and the two Cuomos lapsed into their Smothers Brothers “Mom always liked you best” schtick.
You heard a lot of people accusing Fox News of being “state-controlled television” during the Trump years, or MSNBC of being “state-controlled television” during the Obama years. But in the case of CNN, at least for this show in prime time, it really was a de facto extension of the governor’s office — and now we know Chris Cuomo was advising his brother on how to respond to the sexual-harassment accusations:
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo participated in strategy calls advising his brother, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, on how to handle the sexual harassment allegations made against the governor earlier this year, according to a new report.
Chris Cuomo reportedly joined a series of conference calls with his brother’s top aide, communications team, lawyers and a number of outside advisers, according to the Washington Post.
The cable news anchor helped advise his brother as more and more women claimed the governor had made inappropriate comments or touched them without their permission.
Chris Cuomo told the governor to take a defiant position and not to resign from office, the report says. He reportedly cited “cancel culture” as a reason to not back down in light of the growing scandal.
Cuomo Prime Time wasn’t just the public-relations extension of the governor’s office; the CNN employee was effectively working as a political and media strategist for the governor.
CNN issued a bland statement declaring Cuomo’s actions “inappropriate.” No Shinola, Sherlock.
Think about that: A CNN anchor is advising a governor on how to handle the media and minimize the reputational damage from multiple accusations of sexual harassment. How do you think the women who work at CNN feel this morning? Do you think they feel as if Chris Cuomo genuinely believes that harassment in the workplace is unacceptable? Or do you think they now suspect that the network’s prime-time anchor believes that certain figures are entitled to misbehave and escape any consequences?
As the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple observes, through the coverage of the MeToo scandals, CNN’s coverage generally insisted that accusers needed to be taken seriously and treated with respect. Dismissing nine women, including former employees who made detailed and specific allegations about harassment, as “cancel culture” is a dramatic departure from how CNN covered other sexual-harassment allegations.
Wemple concludes, “Cuomo deserves every bit of ridicule thrown his way. Folks who work in journalism make a decision: We’re here to cover politicians and their consiglieres, not to work with them.”
But I’m not sure ridicule is going to be sufficient. Chris Cuomo just verified every accusation of every conservative critic CNN has ever had; the network became the reputational bodyguard of a notoriously corrupt and utterly shameless Democratic official.
Kyle Smith is right; Cuomo’s continued employment at CNN is proof that anything can be forgiven if you’re liberal. (Kyle also offers the brilliant moniker, “Cuomo Nepotism Network.”)
Circling back, as Jen Psaki would say, why do we have a news media? To tell us what’s going on in the world. Sometimes what’s going on in the world will please us, like learning that the seven-day-average for daily new deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. is at its lowest point since July 7. Sometimes what’s going on in the world will upset us, but that doesn’t change our need to know.
And in American society, the news media is supposed to be a key tool for ensuring accountability in government. If somebody in government is screwing up in a consequential way, we’re not supposed to only care if it’s a member of the party we oppose. We’re supposed to hold our own guys to a high standard, too. I’m sure CNN employs a lot of people who usually, almost always, or always vote for the Democrats, and that doesn’t inherently mean that they can’t be good journalists. But it does mean they have to work against their internal preferences and biases and be willing to call out a Democrat who makes bad decisions or behaves badly. They can’t see themselves as narrative muralists painting an elaborate portrait of why Democrats are good and Republicans are bad.
And if the news media is so ensnared by its partisan preferences that it ends up celebrating the governor who did arguably the worst job — say, the governor in Albany whose state suffered the second-highest COVID-19 deaths per million residents — while demonizing, say, the governor in Tallahassee whose state suffered the 27th-highest COVID-19 deaths per million residents . . . we end up with a media system that acclaims bad decisions and castigates good decisions. We will be doomed to bad governance because the media has become an anti-accountability system.
Are Political Disputes Quicker to Get Violent These Days?
This seems like the sort of thing that might be more than just a local news story: “At least 26 people were arrested after chaos erupted in Times Square during a clash between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters, police said. Nearby in Manhattan’s Diamond District, a bystander was burned by a firework set off, sending a woman and two police officers to the hospital. The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force also launched an investigation into a gang assault of a Jewish man near the protests.”
Particularly since similar abominable actions are occurring on the other side of the country as well: “An attack on a group of men at a restaurant in the Beverly Grove area, which was being investigated by police Wednesday as a possible hate crime, drew condemnation from a Los Angeles city councilman who said the victims were Jewish diners targeted by a pro-Palestinian group.”
This is terrifying, and some people are understandably asking how something like this could happen in the United States — and in New York City of all places. Then again, those of us old enough to remember the Crown Heights riots in 1991 may not be entirely shocked to see a sudden outburst of violent anti-Semitism on New York’s streets.
ADDENDA: Over on the Corner, some thoughts on Tim Tebow’s return to the NFL . . . focused not so much on Tebow’s faith, kneeling, or the broader cultural war, and more on what the Jacksonville Jaguars already have at the tight-end position.
For what it is worth, Andrew Follett writes on NRO today that all of the videos of flying objects featured on 60 Minutes last Sunday have “obvious potential terrestrial explanations” that do not involve advanced technology. He contends one might be a Canada Goose.