New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) admitted Monday that journalists — other than his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo — routinely give him advice, triggering questions about the ethical implications of journalists cultivating cozy relationships with a powerful politician.
What did Cuomo say?
While speaking on Long Island, the scandal-embattled Democratic governor defended fielding advice from his brother, Chris — who did not previously disclose he was advising his governor brother — and revealed journalists advise him "all the time."
"I had conversations with my brother. I always have conversations with my brother because he's my brother and he's my best friend," Cuomo said, in response to the New York Post.
"Obviously, he was aware of what was going on and I talked to him about it, and he told me his thoughts. He always tells me his thoughts. Sometimes I follow them, sometimes I don't," he added, before claiming, "He was not covering the story. He had recused himself from the story."
That's when Cuomo admitted his brother is not the only journalist advising him.
"But I talk to journalists about situations all the time and they tell me their thoughts and their advice," Cuomo said.
Cuomo, however, did not identify the journalists who purportedly advise him, nor did he disclose which news outlets employ them.
What are the ethical implications?
Cuomo's admission suggests there are journalists regularly violating media ethics, either by actively working in politics through advising Cuomo or by engaging in a conflict of interest.
Tom Jones of the journalism institute Poynter noted, "It seems fairly evident that journalists helping politicians is crossing a line."
In fact, the Society of Professional Journalists' code of ethics says, "Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts," while the Associated Press advises its employees, "Editorial employees are expected to be scrupulous in avoiding any political activity, whether they cover politics regularly or not."
Was Chris Cuomo disciplined?
Despite the blaring conflict of interest, CNN did not discipline Cuomo for not disclosing to CNN viewers that he was advising Gov. Cuomo regarding his sexual harassment scandal.
The Washington Post first reported on Cuomo's ethical blunder.
"Chris has not been involved in CNN's extensive coverage of the allegations against Governor Cuomo — on air or behind the scenes," CNN said in a statement. "In part because, as he has said on his show, he could never be objective. But also because he often serves as a sounding board for his brother."
"However, it was inappropriate to engage in conversations that included members of the Governor's staff, which Chris acknowledges," the statement added. "He will not participate in such conversations going forward."
For his part, Chris Cuomo only apologized for putting his CNN colleagues "in a bad spot," but did not apologize to CNN viewers for not disclosing the fact that he was advising his brother.
"I understand why that was a problem for CNN," Cuomo said. "It will not happen again. It was a mistake, because I put my colleagues here, who I believe are the best in the business, in a bad spot. I never intended for that. I would never intend for that. And I am sorry for that."