CNN went into red-alert mode on Tuesday to cover the stunning resignation of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, carrying his remarks live and patching in Empire State political veterans by phone.
A different Cuomo was glaringly absent: Chris Cuomo, the governor’s brother and CNN’s top-rated anchor, whose family link to a national scandal has proved increasingly tricky for the cable network to navigate. He is off this week on what he described as a planned vacation for his birthday.
Chris Cuomo has regularly spoken with Governor Cuomo by telephone over the past week and advised his brother to resign, said two people who requested anonymity to describe sensitive private conversations.
The anchor concluded last week that his brother could not survive the political maelstrom, as the governor’s longtime allies abandoned him and support in the Democratic establishment dwindled, the people said.
CNN has barred Chris Cuomo from engaging in strategy sessions with the governor’s aides, but the network has said it would not prohibit him from speaking directly with his brother about the scandal.
That distinction is unlikely to placate critics who say CNN erred in allowing Chris Cuomo to keep broadcasting his 9 p.m. news and commentary program while his brother became the focus of a harassment scandal. It was a difficult situation for the network and its president, Jeff Zucker, who had criticized Fox News when its prime-time hosts were enmeshed in former President Donald J. Trump’s administration and campaign.
“Cuomo Prime Time” also helped burnish Andrew Cuomo’s national reputation last year. The governor repeatedly appeared on the program to discuss his response to the nascent pandemic, and his intimate, lengthy on-air conversations with Chris Cuomo, who had fallen ill with the coronavirus, riveted viewers.
In May, Chris Cuomo apologized to viewers after it emerged that he had counseled his brother’s aides on how to respond to the sexual misconduct accusations, but the anchor said his loyalty resided with “family first, job second.” At the time, CNN called his actions “inappropriate,” but it did not discipline him.
The New York Times reported last week that CNN executives had also offered a temporary leave to Chris Cuomo if he wanted to formally advise his brother, with a promise that he could return to his show. He declined to take a leave. CNN declined to comment on Tuesday beyond its past statements about its anchor.
On Tuesday, CNN’s afternoon shows covered Andrew Cuomo’s resignation, with the anchor John King telling viewers, “You’ve been watching, simply, blockbuster news.” Fox News, whose commentators have long derided the governor, included segments about Chris Cuomo’s awkward role at CNN in its coverage of the resignation.
But Chris Cuomo has received some sympathy from one Fox News host. On his Monday show, Tucker Carlson said he would not criticize the CNN anchor for wanting to help his brother in a crisis.
“It’s understandable,” Mr. Carlson said. “It’s his brother. Your loyalty should be to your family above all else.”