At this point, New York state counts more than 15,000 COVID-19 victims from nursing homes, compared with the 8,500 acknowledged in just weeks ago, according to The Associated Press.
This isn’t because there’s been a massive spike in deaths in care homes, though. It’s because Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration was finally forced to admit what anyone who bothered to look has known all along: The state had been dramatically undercounting deaths in the facilities by not counting those who died in hospitals, unlike how any other state with early outbreaks cataloged COVID deaths.
Furthermore, the new numbers — released after New York Attorney General Letitia James’ report in January said deaths in nursing homes had been undercounted by more than 50 percent — indicated that 9,000 recovering COVID patients were returned to care facilities under the state’s directive to free up hospital beds under Cuomo’s order.
In a phone call with state Democratic lawmakers last week, a top aide to Cuomo admitted the administration had withheld accurate data, from both the public and from state legislators.
Is this being covered on Chris Cuomo’s CNN show? No, obviously not. As Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple pointed out in a Wednesday piece, despite the fact that the governor made over 10 appearances on his brother’s prime-time cable show during the early days of the pandemic last year, you can’t find any mention of the governor these days.
Instead, what’s on there? “The host has plowed through plenty of worthy topics: coronavirus vaccines and variants, QAnon and conspiracy theories, the Capitol riot and impeachment, and more,” Wemple wrote.
“But the absence of coverage of the nursing-home scandal contrasts sharply with other CNN precincts, which have stayed on top of the story. On Sunday’s ‘State of the Union,’ for example, host Jake Tapper ripped away, ‘So Governor Cuomo, who has declined to appear on this show despite dozens of requests over the past year, including this past week, made a bad decision that may have cost lives. And then his administration hid that data from the public.'”
So, what’s the deal? Well, it turns out that CNN has a ban against Chris Cuomo covering his brother — one that was ignored as the governor used the segments to boost his stature on the national stage, apparently.
“The early months of the pandemic crisis were an extraordinary time,” a network spokesman said in a statement.
“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.”
And why not? We all needed this:
Huge cotton swab: both funny and necessary.
It’s unclear when CNN stopped enforcing the ban on Chris Cuomo reporting on his brother and when the network started enforcing it again, thus bringing a needed end to the “Cuomo Bros. Variety Hour.” Fox News reported it had reached out to CNN numerous times over the past year for an explanation, including as late as last week, and received no response.
Bringing to mind a few aphorisms about blind squirrels and stopped clocks, Wemple noted the explanation CNN gave was “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.
This depends on how misled you happen to be on CNN’s objectivity quotient, I suppose.
One day before, writing about Fox News Media’s decision to retain its CEO, Wemple said Fox News was “a media property governable only by lifers whose values have already been duly warped.” Now, one assumes this is because Wemple finds Fox News’ content not only unbalanced and commentarial but also objectionable.
That’s all well and good, but writing that and then saying, a mere day later, that CNN “just can’t” make a rule forbidding Chris Cuomo from reporting on his brother and then revoking it when reporting on said brother becomes problematic indicates Wemple thinks CNN is a different animal from Fox. This doesn’t bespeak of someone who has, well, actually watched CNN recently.
And yet, Wemple seemed to have more than a passing familiarity with the Cuomo family reunions on CNN, given some of the clips he embedded in his piece:
Chris: “Thank you for coming back to the show.”
Andrew: “Mom told me I had to.”
Chris: *eyeroll* pic.twitter.com/NRaL3kqrkr
— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) March 24, 2020
Not objective but true,the facts tell the story.NY had & has its struggles but they’re doing way better than what we see elsewhere & no way that happens without the Luv Guv dishing the real 24/7.He works with relentless intensity & NY’s better for it.And as a brother, I am proud. pic.twitter.com/M1TrAtQwCo
— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) June 25, 2020
“Me having you on the show is an unusual thing. We’ve never really done it. But this was an unusual time,” Chris Cuomo said during one appearance. “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 because I know they appreciate it.”
This is another irony about Wemple’s genuine shock at these unpaid political advertisements on CNN, which is that this segment — in which Chris Cuomo freely admits, during his panegyric to his brother, that he’ll never be objective in lavishing praise — is almost eight months old, from June 2020. Two months later, the AP began reporting on the likelihood New York was dramatically undercounting deaths in nursing homes through numerical prestidigitation.
Both the dodgy, situational journalistic ethics of the Cuomos’ brother act and the uncomfortable facts regarding New York state’s fungible COVID-19 counting methods were both something the media should have caught on to months ago.
This isn’t to single out Wemple, who isn’t the only one to pull a Captain Renault and act shocked — shocked! — to discover the Cuomos’ jocular CNN chumminess might have been ethically challenged, or that the governor’s vaunted leadership on COVID-19 wasn’t as sound as we were led to believe.
I’ll say this much, however: The fact a media critic for The Washington Post has suddenly come to this realization at the most felicitous of times is, to use Wemple’s own words, “an expression of the problem itself.”
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