CNN's leftwing media guru Brian Stelter suggested that the network's public scolding of his colleague Chris Cuomo over his involvement in his brother's political scandals was sufficient punishment, something critics have strongly disagreed with.
On Sunday's "Reliable Sources," Stelter admitted that the network was facing a "conundrum" with "no perfect solution" over recent revelations that its star anchor had aided Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as his team responded to allegations of sexual misconduct earlier this year.
Stelter appeared to praise CNN's handling of its beleaguered host.
"CNN management said back in May that Chris crossed the line by doing that and he apologized to colleagues for it," Stelter told viewers. "Some critics said he should have been suspended or even fired. But I'm going to level with you."
"Telling a well-off host to hang out by the pool for a couple of weeks is not a real punishment," Stelter said as Cuomo reportedly began his "long-planned vacation."
"Scolding a host in public, saying what they did was 'inappropriate,' that is an actual punishment," he added.
Media experts don't see it that way.
"A true scolding is actual, tangible action. Suspension without pay. Termination. Not keeping a completely compromised person on the air," Fox News contributor Joe Concha told Fox News. "And more than a few journalists from the left, right and in-between has called for his suspension or outright firing."
MSNBC opinion columnist Laura Bassett is one of those journalists, calling on the younger Cuomo to "resign from covering politics or be fired."
"New Yorkers deserve better than a lying, harassing, misogynistic creep presiding over the state. And CNN’s viewers deserve better than a news anchor who is working on behalf of a politician he covers and helps to manipulate public opinion of him," Bassett wrote last week. "Both Cuomo brothers have amassed massive power and influence, while betraying public trust. And both brothers must go."
Tom Elliott, the founder and news editor of the Grabien media company, agreed with Bassett, telling Fox News, "It doesn't take a senior media reporter to know the only logical punishment here is an immediate firing."
"This is the best thing Gov. Cuomo could have asked for: a total news blackout on his myriad scandals during the network’s ostensibly highest-rated hour," Elliott said, alluding to CNN ban's on the younger Cuomo from covering his brother's political woes on-air.
Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan similarly called on CNN to suspend the "Cuomo Prime Time" anchor.
"On Monday evening, Chris Cuomo won’t be on the air as he starts a supposedly long-planned vacation. It should be turned into — at least — an unpaid suspension of significant length," Sullivan wrote. "And CNN should be transparent with its viewers that its anchor acted unethically and that the network won’t countenance it."
Sullivan's Washington Post colleague, media critic Erik Wemple, accused Stelter of whitewashing the network's scandal, arguing CNN must investigate Chris Cuomo.
"The AG report, of course, focuses on Andrew Cuomo’s conduct, not Chris Cuomo’s. That’s why CNN needs to commission a report of its own to determine just how its star anchor fit into this sexual harassment pushback effort. What, precisely, did he say in the conference calls?" Wemple wondered on Monday. "We asked CNN point-blank: Has CNN taken any steps toward investigating Chris Cuomo’s activities? No response yet."
NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck blasted Stelter's assessment that CNN's public comments about Cuomo are enough of a punishment.
"The idea that a public outcry is somehow a sufficient punishment for a horrid lapse in basic journalistic ethics and conflicts of interest is laughable," Houck told Fox News. "Instead of looking inward and/or attempting to put on a show that's actually about the journalism profession that calls balls and strikes, Stelter showed on Sunday that he'd rather continue to clean-up and obfuscate any and all misdoings that his allies or colleagues are caught promulgating."
However, Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson insisted the Chris Cuomo saga has been a "management problem" and calls for accountability should be directed towards those at the top.
"The problem from the start has been a management problem," Jacobson told Fox News. "Everyone could have predicted, and many did, that Chris Cuomo covering his brother the Governor was a bad idea that posed obvious and potential conflicts of interest. CNN management disregarded those obvious warning signs."
"I don't think Chris Cuomo should be fired or suspended for doing what Chris Cuomo does, but management needs to hold itself accountable," Jacobson added.
The Poynter Institute's senior media writer Tom Jones similarly refrained from calling for Cuomo's head, but stressed the damage done to himself will be long lasting.
"Chris Cuomo is forever going to have a credibility problem among some viewers. The only thing that could fix that is something that doesn’t exist: a time machine," Jones wrote.
Concha also told Fox News that CNN's problems are plaguing the network and Stelter's "spin" cannot do anything to quell them.
"CNN crisis-managing efforts from its media guy and all the spin in the world won’t unring this bell," Concha said. "From an ethical perspective, this is the lowest point the network has seen in its 41 years in existence. Without question."