New York Attorney General Letitia James‘ report detailing multiple, corroborated sexual harassment charges against New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo quickly dominated headlines and airwaves. However, the original reports of accusations did not receive nearly the same reaction from mainstream media.
Since December, Cuomo has faced several harassment allegations against him by multiple women. Many media outlets also appeared initially reluctant to report on the growing controversy.
Following Lindsey Boylan’s original accusation in December, CNN hesitated to discuss the news until February following an essay from Boylan. In a brief mention by anchor John King, the network reported the news while also highlighting Boylan’s campaign to be Manhattan Borough President.
“In a statement from Cuomo’s office, four staffers who were on that flight dispute Boylan’s story and the governor’s press secretary says her claims of inappropriate behavior are ‘quite simply false.’ Boylan is running for Manhattan borough president. She first accused the governor of sexual harassment on Twitter back in December,” King said.
Fellow CNN anchor Jake Tapper likewise reported on the news telling audiences, “CNN has been unable to corroborate Boylan’s allegations.”
Networks such as ABC, CBS, and NBC neglected to promote Boylan’s original claims in December. This attitude sharply contrasted with the mainstream media’s reaction to sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Following Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s, D-Calif., original letter requesting an investigation into an allegation in 2018, NBC reported the news on the same day, hyping a “mysterious new twist about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.” Other networks like CNN shortly followed suit with no less than seven articles on the first allegation as it was made public..
While attention to Kavanaugh’s accusers only increased over time, attention to Cuomo’s accusers remained mostly stagnant. At the time of Cuomo’s sixth accuser, many media outlets avoided coverage of the scandal-ridden governor altogether.
In addition, coverage of the governor’s accusations continued to be comparatively far less combative and even defensive at times. ABC characterized Boylan’s allegations as claiming the governor was “joking” while both NBC and CBS downplayed a developing bipartisan movement against him.
Cuomo’s brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo, frequently ignored or downplayed the politician’s actions, claiming that reporting on him would be a conflict of interest. However, he often took part in interviews with Gov. Cuomo during the pandemic in 2020, usually with a humorous tone. Chris Cuomo, who had already apologized for privately advising his brother, is in hot water again after the James report named him as one of several trusted outside advisers to the governor who prioritized his political well-being over the state’s.
This followed several months of media outlets ignoring or downplaying Cuomo’s COVID scandals involving his administration forcing nursing homes to take in COVID-positive patients, potentially leading to thousands of excess deaths.
Charlotte Bennett, the second woman to accuse Cuomo of harassment, specifically called out the media for working to embolden him during the pandemic as well as ignoring the growing scandals.
“Absolutely. I think he felt like he was untouchable in a lot of ways,” Bennett told CBS’s Norah O’Donnell.
Mainstream media frequently praised Gov. Cuomo as a “national leader” during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. By contrast, nearly every media outlet has now called for Cuomo’s resignation in light of the report confirming the sexual harassment allegations against him.