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Will The Real Chris Cuomo Please Stand Up?

Chris Cuomo

On Monday night Chris Cuomo expressed frustration with his job at CNN, he walked it back, but it still resonates.


During his radio show on Monday night, CNN Anchor Chris Cuomo seemed to experience something along the lines of a mid-career crisis.

“I don’t like what I do professionally,” he said. “I don’t think it’s worth my time.”

He also said, “I don’t want to spend my time doing things that I don’t think are valuable enough to me personally, I don’t value indulging irrationality, hyper-partisanship.”

For Cuomo, who has been battling a case of the Chinese virus, these remarks were not entirely surprising. More so than most cable news anchors, the son and brother of two New York governors has always at least paid lip service to the idea of being tough on both sides. In his former job as host of CNN’s morning show, he actually displayed this fairly often, but in his prime-time slot, he has slipped into being a more traditional and biased CNN host.

By Tuesday morning, perhaps after a talking to the powers that be at CNN, Cuomo had spectacularly walked back his statements from just the night before. “It’s not true. I never said it. I never meant it.” He went on, “I have never been in a better position, professionally, than I am in right now. They’ve been so good. They’ve been so supportive of me in ways I could never have imagined… I’ve never had a group of people professionally care about me the way they have shown. I’ll never be able to repay them, but I’ll try hard to do so. I’ve never been more grateful. I’ve never been on a better team.”

Short of standing on a soap box in the CNN lobby wearing a sign that said “I’m Sorry,” there is little more that Cuomo could have done to apologize and beg his way back into the network’s good graces. Gone was the previous night’s bravado about not needing the money they pay him. It was replaced by enormous gratitude. On the surface, anyway, it seems that both sets of statements can’t be true, so which does Cuomo really believe?

In fact, he may well believe both. It is important to understand that CNN and its president Jeff Zucker do not think it is merely a news network. In an interview last fall with the network’s own media critic Brian Stelter, Zucker made clear he views CNN as absolutely essential to guarding democracy. When asked if the network makes any mistakes, he could not think of one.

The cult like self-congratulatory nature of CNN may well be what got under Cuomo’s skin on Monday night, hence his rejection of the hyper-partisan nature of his job. While it may well be the case that the kind of objective journalism Cuomo seems to long for is a myth anyway, he clearly seems uncomfortable being on such a biased team. It shows, unlike his prime-time CNN cohorts Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon, Cuomo rarely seems to revel in the all-Trump-hatred, all-the-time nature of CNN.

Even though he walked it back, Cuomo deserves some praise for exploring his dissatisfaction, not only with his own job, but with the entire news media ecosystem. Everyone who peoples that little world understands that a lot of time, way too much time, is spent with people talking past each other. The goal is not so much to arrive at truth as to score points, and any journalist who claims they have never fallen into that trap is just lying. We all do.

Whether he took it back or not, Cuomo’s exasperated monologue is worth listening to and exploring. It was a rare moment of media introspection from someone who generally comes off as a stand up guy. These are trying times and Cuomo is trying. That deserves some kudos and respect, even if he can’t quite stick to his guns in the light of the morning and under the gaze of his boss. Not for nothing, he had the guts to say it in the first place, and he wasn’t wrong.