Chris Cuomo’s latest interview with Andrew Cuomo, on Cuomo Prime Time on Wednesday got some buzz for its levity — a joke in which the CNN host brought out an oversized cotton swabs, meant to test for the coronavirus, to mock the size of his brother’s nose.
“This was the actual swab that was being used to fit up that double barreled shotgun that you have mounted up that pretty face,” Chris Cuomo said.
“I said I was going to be nice and sweet and cooperative,” his brother said, before smiling and laughing.
But the moment caught the attention of some on some, particularly on the right, who found it tone deaf.
The View co-host Meghan McCain wrote on Twitter, “I’m not sure I’m going to ever be able to buy a crib or baby clothes for my first child in a store, Most of my friends are jobless, petrified and dealing w depression & @JaniceDean lost both her mother and father in law to covid within a week of each other. This is HILARIOUS guys.”
Dean, senior meteorologist at Fox News Channel, wrote that “Awww. @NYGovCuomo is auditioning for a new comedy show with @ChrisCuomo on @CNN. Of course the Gov didn’t address the thousands of deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes in New York. (Roughly 20 percent of all deaths in our state). Enjoy the giant swab!”
Dean wrote earlier that both of her husband’s parents died of coronavirus in different assisted living and nursing homes in New York.
That’s an issue that has been raised by former New York governor George Pataki, a Republican, and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).
They have criticized Andrew Cuomo for a state order in March that allowed positive testing patients to be allowed back into facilities. That policy has since been changed.
By early May, the state has seen about 5,300 deaths in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, according to the Associated Press.
Cuomo, however, has defended the way that the state responded.
“I’m not going to get into the political back-and-forth, but anyone who wants to ask why did the state do that with patients in nursing homes, it is because the state followed President Trump’s CDC guidance, so they should ask President Trump,” Cuomo told reporters on Wednesday.
The Cuomo brothers’ appearances on CNN, brother interviewing brother, have generated some journalistic consternation since they became more frequent during the coronavirus crisis.
But the brothers’ personal banter also may have been a factor in boosting ratings for Cuomo Prime Time.
As Chris Cuomo continued to anchor the show as he recovered from coronavirus, the April audience for Cuomo Prime Time averaged 2.58 million viewers, its highest yet, according to CNN. The network said that it was its top rated news program for the month, and it beat The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC in the 25-54 demographic. Last month, CNN chief Jeff Zucker told The New York Times’ Ben Smith, “You get trust from authenticity and relatability and vulnerability. That’s what the brothers Cuomo are giving us right now.”
The recent segment, however, drew some criticism beyond just rightward personalities.
Matthew Gertz, senior fellow at Media Matters for America, the progressive media watchdog, wrote with a bit of sarcasm on Twitter about the segment, “The thing about the obviously unethical Cuomo Brothers interviews is that CNN knows they are obviously unethical as indicated by the network banning Chris from doing them in 2013 after he did one and everyone said it was obviously unethical.”
He added about the issue of nursing home deaths, “Obviously no one is going to grill their sibling over this which is why they shouldn’t be allowed to interview their sibling, this is pretty basic!” He called the segment “embarrassing for everyone involved.”
CNN did not respond to a request for comment.
Ana Navarro-Cardenas, political commentator for CNN, Telemundo and The View, had a different message: Chill.
“For months, @CNN has carried almost 24/7 sobering Covid-news,” she wrote. “A few minutes of friendly bantering b/w 2 brothers w/high-profile, high-stress jobs, is not supposed to be journalism. It’s called humor. It is a coping mechanism for some of us. Simple. If it offends you, don’t watch.”