Chris Cuomo's Viewership Is Plummeting. Here's Why

The Cuomo brothers appear to have a bit of a problem. While the New York Times notes that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is mired in a series of political scandals that include the potential cover-up of COVID-related nursing home deaths, as well as several allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior leveled against him, his brother Chris is taking hits of his own, as ratings for his show, CNN'S Cuomo Prime Time fell rather dramatically from 5.02 million in early January, to 2.1 million by the last week of the same month. 

To be fair, Radio.com reports that CNN has been shedding viewers since President Joe Biden took office on January 20 anyway. While it enjoyed a boost between November 4 to January 20, when the network averaged 2.5 million primetime viewers, it has only been able to attract 1.6 million viewers from the Biden inauguration day through to March 15. 

But some of Chris Cuomo's decline in viewership are being linked to his brother Andrew's failing political fortunes and his inability to cover them, due to a conflict of interest, which he declared on March 1. "Obviously I am aware of what's going on with my brother, and obviously I cannot cover it, because he is my brother," Cuomo said. "Now, of course CNN has to cover it, they have covered it extensively and they will continue to do so. I have always cared very deeply about these issues and profoundly so" (via RadarOnline). 

A 2013 ban on Chris Cuomo interviewing his brother was lifted in March 2020

Chris Cuomo had been under a company imposed ban on interviewing his older brother since 2013, when he called his brother "governor" on air, and critics went on social media to ask whether it was possible for one to cover a sibling fairly. But that changed in March of 2020, when the coronavirus brought New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to the heart of the story — and that, the New York Times says, is when CNN cleared Chris to speak with his brother on air. 

It wasn't long before the brothers became must-see TV as the national fell into the relentless grip of the coronavirus pandemic, Chris Cuomo fell ill himself and had to anchor his show from his basement, and the governor was seen as a competent foil next to former President Donald Trump. Even Syracuse University media law professor Roy Gutterman tells USA Today that: "I found these interviews to be very entertaining, and perhaps Chris could ask questions of his brother that other people can't. But from the very beginning, I thought it was wildly inappropriate." Even the controversial Piers Morgan weighed in on the Cuomo-Cuomo show, saying "It flies against every preconceived notion of normal CNN standards and practices. But the corona governor talking to his victim brother is incredible to watch."

Chris Cuomo had explained his decision to interview his brother on air

Chris Cuomo himself must have felt uneasy about having his brother on his air, because during the early days of the pandemic, he gave in to the need to explain himself and the reason why he felt interviewing his brother Andrew was the right thing to do. He said on his SiriusXM show that, "I wanted people to see that he's not just super-intense on this all the time—that he's living it with you." Cuomo also pointed out that "there will come a time when there's an accountability measure where it will no longer make sense for it to be me" that was speaking to the governor (via Vanity Fair). 

He didn't have long to wait for that time to come. It finally did, in mid-February of 2021, less than a year after the Cuomo brothers were allowed to speak to each other on television, when CNN said it was reinstating the ban on having Chris speak to his older brother. To explain the off-again, on-again ban, CNN said: "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" (via Deadline).

"As a result, we made an exception to a rule that we have had in place since 2013 which prevents Chris from interviewing his brother, and that rule remains in place today," the network said. 

CNN and Chris Cuomo's credibility were hurt by the exemption

As The Washington Post's media columnist Margaret Sullivan points out, it might have been difficult for CNN to uphold the Cuomo-Cuomo ban just as the coronavirus pandemic was ramping up and moving full steam ahead, and particularly in light of the ratings boost Cuomo Prime Time was getting at the time. But she also says that if it was acceptable for Chris to speak to Andrew about his COVID policies in the spring, it should also be acceptable to speak to him about the more serious subjects that are hurting the governor today. And if the brotherly banter was not meant to be the exception that CNN has positioned it to be, that should also have been made clear from the start. Because right now, many media experts agree that the credibility of both Cuomo and CNN are on the line, and both appear to be taking a deep hit.