Running cover for Cuomo and everyone else on your team
By Matthew Fraser, Opinions Editor
It became acceptable for journalists to have a biased hand when they began to write and a deeper bias when they didn’t write.
The goal of the journalism should be to interrogate power and seek the truth. Therefore, freedom of inquiry and expression are important to a thriving democracy—so they are the first to go when democracy is truly threatened. The era of Donald Trump was filled with long journalistic endeavors into “Russiagate” and for the past four years these types of stories codified what we would call the “Resistance.” It was glorious for a moment to be a journalist standing proud in the fight against fascism and staring down the hoard of deplorables. But in all this effort to throw themselves on to the anti-Trump team, journalists forgot how to universally oppose and interrogate power. With “orange man bad” being the energy du jour, it became acceptable to turn a blind eye to the missteps of the Democratic party. Worse still, it became acceptable for journalists to have a biased hand when they began to write and a deeper bias when they didn’t write.
However, as the sun rises, so too shall it set and when evening draws near—chickens come home to roost. Now, after Trump has been ushered offstage, it is time for the journalists to return to the journalism that pays their bills. In early February, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the NY governor Andrew Cuomo, admitted that they hid the number of COVID deaths to prevent scrutiny from the Republican government. Additionally, Governor Cuomo spearheaded legislation that would shield long-term care facilities from the legal consequences they deserved for allowing infected patients back into their general population. These actions were so egregious that they prompted assemblyman Ron Kim to take 70 pages of his report to the UN to file a human rights violation.
While one part of the government lied to another, soliloquies and roses were heaped on Andrew Cuomo, culminating with Rachel Maddow dubbing him “The President of the Coronavirus” as if his leadership was what the country so desperately needed. While some decried the constant lying of Trump, Andrew Cuomo was awarded an Emmy for his “news briefings.” Apparently, the cantankerous rage with which Trump abused reporters was worth sacrificing thousands of lives to avert. Strangely enough, Governor Cuomo is well known for his own barrel-chested New York bullying in a manner not unlike the reality-mogul-turned-president whose ire he so wanted to avoid.
But worst of all, as grandparents needlessly died, Chris Cuomo shielded his brother (the Governor) by comparing nose sizes. Thankfully, the charges are so grand he can no longer run cover for his older sibling by soft balling interviews and arguing about who is mom’s favorite. Though he would like to tuck his tail and claim integrity now, someone must point out that journalists like David Sirota had been working to expose the obvious untruths and lies that Chris Cuomo helped conceal.
Although the FBI and Cuomo-appointed Attorney General Letitia James are launching the thorough investigations Andrew Cuomo had likely hoped to avoid, the thing that might actually end Governor Cuomo may not be the killing of grandma and the subsequent coverup, but his Trumpian sexual harassment allegations. At the time of writing, six separate women have come forward alleging sexual misconduct against Governor Cuomo—plus one recently resurfaced video of him cajoling reporter Bethany Cefalu to “Eat the whole sausage” (though the Cefalu has stated that it was all in mutual fun). Where the normal anger at needless death fails, #metoo may continue to bring down the mighty. Ironically, though Cuomo has vowed to not step down, the second Trump impeachment has shown that even if he did, he can (and should) still be held accountable for actions done while in office.
However, the real question is simple: will the media ecosystem remain partisan and divided, happily shielding its own while denigrating the other side? Given the trend of growing political division and mutual distrust, it seems all too likely. Add the fact that news engagement has been dropping steadily since the ouster of Trump, it might be that the only profits available to the corporate news world will come from the team sports politics that made the Cuomo coverup possible. Sadly, his recently published leadership book shows that the world can and will sensationalize even the illusion of good work for temporary profits. Let’s hope that the independent journalists continue to do their jobs.