Chris Cuomo’s business is media. Andrew Cuomo’s business is politics. The line between them is clear, except when it isn’t. “I’m trying to help my brother,” Cuomo told investigators working for the New York attorney general’s office during a six-hour deposition in July, a transcript of which was made public on Monday. “But I’m not part of his team.” Confronted with texts and e-mails showing that he was in regular contact with his brother, his brother’s aides, and his brother’s outside advisers, as they scrambled last winter to respond to allegations of sexual harassment, and that he regularly passed along tips, served as a sounding board, and advised on media strategy, Cuomo, the host of “Cuomo Prime Time,” on CNN, did his best to shrug it off. “There is no division between politics and media,” he said. “We all know each other.”
The Cuomos’ cozy relationship was on full display in the spring of 2020, when Andrew, then the governor of New York, suddenly found himself the subject of national attention thanks to his daily COVID-19 press briefings. Chris repeatedly invited him on his show, where he let Andrew play up the “cool dude in a loose mood” persona he’d adopted for the crisis. Two brothers, yukking it up for ratings and for America. One night, after Andrew had submitted to an on-camera nasal-swab test, Chris teased him about the size of his nose, producing larger and larger swabs from behind his anchor desk. “Is it true,” Chris asked, waving around a swab whose tip was the size of his head, “this was the actual swab that was being used to fit up that double-barrelled shotgun that you have mounted on the front of your pretty face?” Andrew shook his head, straining to suppress a laugh. “That is so not right,” he said. The governor’s nasal-swab test came up in the attorney general’s investigation; the doctor who performed the test came forward to report that, before the procedure, Andrew had subjected her to several sexually suggestive comments. “You make that gown look good,” he’d told her. The doctor later resigned from her position as the medical director of the state Health Department’s division of epidemiology.
Andrew Cuomo, according to many who know him and have worked with him, including several of the women who came forward earlier this year to report being harassed by him, has a habit of issuing barbed compliments and backhanded insults. Chris Cuomo brought this up during his deposition. Asked if he had ever heard his brother make jokes of a sexual nature, he said yes—about him. “If he was teasing me,” Cuomo said. “Some joke he was making about me, about, let’s say, being emotional, which is somewhat of a consistent theme for him where I’m involved.”
The investigator conducting the deposition stopped for clarification. “I’m trying to understand how that connects to jokes of a sexual nature,” she said.
“You know,” Cuomo responded, “that I’m emotional, I’m so emotional, because, you know, that’s like being effeminate, you know, in his tough-guy world.”
“I see,” the lawyer said. “So you’re acting like a girl. That’s the joke?”
Andrew Cuomo is sixty-three years old. Chris Cuomo is fifty-one. Their father, Mario Cuomo, who died in 2015, served as governor of New York from 1983 to 1994, and despite a mean streak of his own, maintained a reputation as a kind of philosopher king of the Democratic Party. A few years ago, Chris Cuomo threatened to throw a heckler down the stairs of a bar on Shelter Island after the man called him Fredo—the character in “The Godfather” who wilts in his brother’s shadow—a term that Chris claimed was “like the N-word” for Italian Americans. During his deposition with the attorney general’s investigators, Chris was also asked if he ever heard his brother make comments or jokes about members of his state-police security detail. Again, the jokes Chris could think of had come at his own expense. “Look how much bigger this guy is than you,” Andrew would say, according to Chris, a guy who has posted images of his large biceps on social media and has had his workout routine described in the Times. “There was a consistent theme of the governor being better than I am at whatever we were engaged in at the time,” Chris told the investigators. The lawyers and Chris discussed Andrew’s “customary greeting” of men and women, and Chris was asked if his brother had ever kissed him on the lips. “He’s tried,” Chris said. There was a pause. “I’m sorry,” Chris said. “I’m kidding.”
The transcript runs to three hundred and forty-eight pages. It was released by the attorney general’s office along with the similarly lengthy transcripts of the depositions of Andrew Cuomo, ten of his accusers, and sixteen of his aides, staffers, and allies. The trove provides the latest revelations in a set of scandals that has yet to run out of surprises. That Chris had been involved in conversations about the accusations made against his brother was not news—it was first reported in May, by the Washington Post, prompting an on-air apology. “Being a journalist and a brother to a politician is… a unique challenge, and I have a unique responsibility to balance those roles,” Chris said. “It was a mistake.” Yet the transcript makes clear that “involved in conversations” doesn’t capture the full picture. “Can u check your sources?” Melissa DeRosa, Andrew’s top aide, texted him at one point, looking for information about a rumored story being prepared by Politico. “On it,” he replied. In at least two instances, he passed on information about his brother’s accusers. “Have you seen this? Is it fake?” he wrote in an e-mail to DeRosa and several of Cuomo’s external-communication advisers, forwarding a document about Charlotte Bennett, the second woman to come forward, who had been an executive assistant in the governor’s office. Elsewhere, he texted DeRosa, “I have a lead on the wedding girl,” a reference to Anna Ruch, the woman who came forward to the Times, with photographic evidence, after being grabbed by Andrew Cuomo at one of his aide’s weddings.
Chris Cuomo told the lawyers that he regularly deletes his e-mails and texts as soon as he reads them. (“I have a constant and consistent concern about being hacked,” he said.) But the people on the other end of these exchanges, particularly DeRosa, evidently didn’t engage in the same scrupulous practice, even when Chris told them to. “Delete thread now,” he wrote to DeRosa shortly after passing along word that he’d heard one of his brother’s accusers “has problems with story.” In his deposition, Chris stuck carefully to the facts that had previously come out in media reports, and the messaging that his brother had previously offered. Asked if he could give an example of a conversation he’d had with his brother about the #MeToo movement, he replied, “Not offhand.” Asked if he knew that his brother had strengthened the sexual-harassment laws in New York, lowering the legal threshold for substantiating accusations, he replied, “Vaguely.” Asked if he’d ever talked to his brother about bullying, he replied, “Not that I can recall specifically.” Describing his brother, he spoke of someone whose paranoia verged on total. “That’s what it is for him,” he said. “There’s a universe of possibility about people being out to get him.”
Chris’s general position is that he played a neutral role among his brother’s advisers—“I am often seen as a fair broker of who you can go to about Andrew,” he told the lawyers—and that he had consistently pushed for his brother to apologize and own at least “aspects” of the accusations against him. (“Always. Always. I believe no matter what your intentions were—I know this doesn’t play well in cancel culture, and I know it doesn’t play well in a court of law, and it certainly wouldn’t play well in this room. But if somebody is offended by something that you did, if somebody thought it was wrong, you should apologize,” he said.) He denied participating in any effort to attack his brother’s accusers, or engaging in opposition research. “I don’t even know of any opposition research being done,” he said. “I don’t even know that I would call it that, if that’s what was happening.” At key moments, however, he was not neutral. In March, 2021, as calls for his brother’s resignation grew louder, and his brother’s resolve seemed to waver, Chris texted DeRosa, “No resign no resign no resign.” She texted back, “No resign.”