CNN amazingly defended one of its anchors, Chris Cuomo, on Thursday saying it's "not surprising" that "he turned to anyone he could" for help after it was revealed he received prioritized at-home coronavirus testing early on in the pandemic based solely on his family relation to Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
What are the details?
The Albany Times-Union first reported the news Wednesday that Gov. Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker had ordered high-level health department officials "to conduct prioritized coronavirus testing on the governor's relatives as well as influential people with ties to the administration" in March 2020, at a time when coronavirus tests were extremely hard to come by.
The report noted that "members of Cuomo's family including his brother [Chris Cuomo], his mother and at least one of his sisters were also tested by top health department officials — some several times."
Swift backlash ensued following the revelations as many critics of the embattled governor perceived that the prioritized testing amounted to preferential treatment for his relatives. Yet in the face of scandal, CNN opted to step in and defend its anchor, essentially arguing that anyone in his position — with his access — would do the same.
"We generally do not get involved in the medical decisions of our employees," CNN spokesman Matt Dornic said in a statement. "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's tone-deaf response, like the news about the preferential treatment in the first place, was met with immediate criticism.
Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple tweeted, "I am happy that Chris Cuomo made a quick and full recovery. But he needs to step forward and detail whatever special treatment he received via his family connection to the NYS government. This is a big story and his own colleagues are competing for it."
Former CNN sports correspondent Keith Olbermann quipped, "HOO boy who thought THIS would help?"
HOO boy who thought THIS would help? https://t.co/ZVmz5zatO2— Keith Olbermann (@Keith Olbermann)1616641333.0
According to the Times-Union, prioritized at-home testing was not the only preferential treatment that Cuomo's family received. One source with knowledge of the matter reportedly told the outlet that people close to the governor had their samples expedited through testing labs, where they were referred to as "critical samples."
The Washington Post reported that the governor's family and other "well-connected figures" were known as "specials" or "VIPs."
But, according to CNN, Chris Cuomo was simply a desperate infected person looking for help anywhere he could find it.
This latest incident is far from the first time Cuomo and CNN collectively have been scrutinized for unusual behavior, to say the least, surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. The network was repeatedly called out last year for allowing Cuomo to interview his older brother amid the governor's scandal-laden management of the pandemic in New York.
Also, in April, the network staged Cuomo "emerging" from a weekslong basement quarantine following his recovery from the illness — despite the fact that he had been out in public only days before.