Chris Cuomo is attempting a comeback — or at least, he’s “moving forward,” as he tells Kara Swisher in this episode of our new podcast, On With Kara Swisher.
Just a couple years ago, the former CNN anchor was hosting chummy (and extremely popular) segments interviewing his brother, then New York governor Andrew Cuomo, on a network run by his friend, then CNN chief Jeff Zucker. These days, he’s taping his own podcast, The Chris Cuomo Project, from his dining room while gearing up for a new cable show on a far smaller network, NewsNation — and seeking $125 million in damages from his former employer.
Cuomo was unceremoniously dismissed from CNN late last year after a multi-month saga that centered around the relationship between the anchor and his brother. First there was the governor’s downplaying of nursing-home deaths, which by June 2020 led CNN to reinstate a ban on the brotherly appearances that the network had lifted during the pandemic. Then, by early 2021, came the litany of sexual-harassment allegations against the governor, and the later revelations that Chris Cuomo had provided advice and help to his brother in addressing those allegations.
CNN backed its anchor through much of the year, but suspended Cuomo in November 2021 upon the release of details from his testimony in New York attorney general Letitia James’s investigation of the governor. The network fired him just days later after new information came to light — specifically, a sexual-misconduct allegation against Chris Cuomo made by an anonymous former colleague at another network — an allegation Cuomo has denied.
In this conversation, Kara presses Cuomo on the CNN turmoil. They discuss whether his new shows — which Cuomo bills as not left, nor right, but reasonable — will cut through the noise. Oh, and they discuss whether his brother will make an appearance on the anchor’s new NewsNation hour (Kara suggests that’s maybe not a good idea).
Journalist Kara Swisher brings the news and newsmakers to you twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays.
Chris Cuomo: Congratulations on your success. Congratulations on the new gig.
Kara Swisher: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. All right. Are we ready?
Chris Cuomo: Yes, ma’am.
Kara Swisher: Okay. So let’s get at it as you like to say. I’ve now taken that. Are you bringing that with you to the new gig?
Chris Cuomo: Let’s get after it.
Kara Swisher: After it.
Chris Cuomo: So you can have at. It’s a different preposition, so you’re good to go.
Kara Swisher: Okay, good. So I was watching one of your YouTube videos for your podcast, which looked great. Gone are sort of the sharply cut suits, the network slick, and you’re wearing these T-shirts and you’re selling merch. Let’s hear a clip:
Chris Cuomo: The free-agent merch, it’s there, buy it. I want to get a lot of money together. I’m thinking like a hundred grand and then we’ll start crowdsourcing who we give it out to so we can do some good together. I think it’s really cool. Also, I like the idea of this instead of independent, okay? I don’t like the word “independent,” because I think in America we need to be interdependent.
Kara Swisher: Okay. Let’s start from there. The T-shirts say “free agent,” and I want you to explain that for people and also I can’t help, but feel you’re talking a little bit in code to a different world that you used to be in. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m reading into it. I’d like to know if you’re free now and more importantly, sort of critical of yourself now going forward.
Chris Cuomo: I’ve always been highly self-critical and probably self-loathing. And I think that there’s an aspect of that that I’ve been trying to address, having been recently given a block of time with not much to do. And we got to keep working on ourselves and sometimes your insecurities keep you from being confident because that exposes you to disappointment, and it’s easier to be negative. I think we see that all over our culture. Negativity is a proxy for insight.
Free agent doesn’t really refer to me, it refers to you. It refers to the people who are listening, who I’m trying to reach. So a free agent is really about everybody else. And it’s people who don’t want to be on a team or a tribe, who have open minds and open hearts and are willing to listen, even if they disagree.
Kara Swisher: So, interestingly, you were right in the dead center of that for a long time, you had the top show, highly paid. You were sort of a chief of the tribe. But let’s talk about your decisions, because where you were was an incredibly powerful place. You had the highest rated hour of a major news network. It was run by your buddy, Jeff Zucker. You were doing whatever you wanted and now you’re doing something different. So let’s talk about those decisions.
I want to go back to 2020, where I think a lot of this started, which was right in the middle of COVID you had your brother on the show talking about it. And it was — let me just say, I kind of like the stunt for its obvious entertainment and I also hated myself for liking it because I thought it was problematic. I’m not going to say unethical, I think it was problematic and uncomfortable. It was fine when it was fun and games or talking about informational stuff, but when you got to the governor — real news stories like around the nursing-home deaths — it became problematic, and you did go to that. Let’s talk about why you decided to do that and how you feel about it right now. And I know there’s hindsight’s 2020 kind of thing.
Chris Cuomo: Well, look, the hindsight 2020 for me is that if I had known that a grudge would be harbored, because if we’re giving a fair reckoning, not many people spoke up loudly in the media about disapproving of my brother being on during that time. They did so later. And I think in that is something that needs to be owned as well. The reason that they didn’t come out in the moment was because it was very popular and powerful. And I think if you want to speak truth to power and you want to be about somebody who’s about something bigger and ethical and capital-J journalism, then say it when it’s not popular to say it and not easy to say it, but let’s put that to the side. Why did I do it—
Kara Swisher: May I interject for a second?
Chris Cuomo: Please.
Kara Swisher: Why didn’t you say it? Why didn’t you say it?
Chris Cuomo: I didn’t feel it.
Kara Swisher: You didn’t feel it. You thought it was fine?
Chris Cuomo: No. If I knew that it was going to be harbored as a grudge the way it was I may have had much more profound concerns early on when I was asked to have my brother on. Very important phrase.
Kara Swisher: Sure. I got that. I understand that. And I think they were—
Chris Cuomo: This idea that Chris Cuomo had no boss, Chris Cuomo did as he liked when he liked how he liked — these are people who don’t know our business. When Jeff decided to have Andrew on, I believe it was the right call because the country was desperate and starved for comfort. I have never met a regular person, meaning someone who does not get paid to be my competition, who has said, “I got to tell you I really thought that those were news interviews and that you were not doing your job the way you do it with everybody else. I don’t want to disrespect you, but I think you may have been partial to Andrew Cuomo in those interviews.” I’ve never had a regular person say that.
What they’ve said is: “I really appreciated the connection between brothers who were in different aspects of the same dynamic and how you were there for each other.” And that’s what they took from it. And I’ll tell you what Kara, I’m not a big fan of myself but I’ve won a lot of awards in journalism, just about all the ones that they offer on a major level for television journalism. I’ve never been thanked for any work that I’ve done the way I was for those interviews.
Did I think that they should be considered a conflict of interest? Ab initio, inherently all day long. But there was complete transparency. You knew it was my brother—
Kara Swisher: I get that.
Chris Cuomo: How can you qualify that?
Kara Swisher: But because I do understand that CNN loved it. You could see that they loved it because they gave it such props.
Chris Cuomo: It wasn’t just CNN Kara, I don’t think that’s fair.
Kara Swisher: I get that. I get that. But it’s still — I don’t want to argue a journalistic point here, but your case against CNN alleges that you had reservations. Did you have reservations about doing this at all or you just felt it was fine?
Chris Cuomo: Well, my brother hadn’t been on my show for a reason, which was it’s an obvious conflict of interest and I’m not going to cover his administration. And I even said in the interviews, a time will come when I cannot have him on anymore because there will be questions of accountability that I cannot be believable on because obviously I’m biased. I said it to the audience and they always got it. I had had my brother on once earlier—
Kara Swisher: 2013.
Chris Cuomo: Not in a “Hey, this is my brother” way.
Kara Swisher: Yeah, 2013.
Chris Cuomo: He was at the scene of a train accident and I had him on just to tell us what had happened in the train accident because nobody was there yet and it was like six something in the morning, I was doing the morning show, New Day. And I got shit on for it. And I was like, you know what? I get it. I tried it. I understand why they’re saying this, leave it alone. It’s not a nuanced discussion and maybe it shouldn’t be because it’s a nice bright line distinction and that’s fine. So, of course there were reservations to be had, but it was also a unique situation. And just in terms of like, hey, the nursing-home stuff came up and when the nursing-home stuff came up in earnest, I didn’t have him on anymore.
Kara Swisher: Right. So you did ask him about them. Let’s get to that moment of accountability you talked about. June 2020: nursing homes. Let’s play that clip:
Chris Cuomo: Nursing homes, people died there. They didn’t have to. It was mismanaged and the operators have been given immunity. What do you have to say about that?
Andrew Cuomo: Several statements that are not correct, but that’s okay. It’s your show, you say whatever you want to say …
Kara Swisher: You were correct actually. He goes on to say it’s tragic, but not accountability. What would you ask him now if you had to re-ask that question where he pushed back on you?
Chris Cuomo: Look, the idea of did I give my brother a pass is an obvious rhetorical question. That was the real question. Other journalists were asking him questions at the time that were not as pointed as the one I asked him and I couldn’t even fairly cover it. Which should tell you something about the nature of media treatment of people in power in general, maybe. I don’t think that the nursing-home situation has been complete and fair in its appraisal, but that’s on my brother and that’s for him to decide whether or not he wants to take it on or his past administration or the current one if it ever comes up again. That’s not my problem, per se.
But what would I ask him? What difference does it make? Because whatever I would ask him would be found lacking. I could have held up a piece of paper and put Mike Wallace’s glasses on and said, “doesn’t this show that you should be damned for this forever” and people would say I went soft. So, that was never what the relationship was supposed to be. It was never presented as that and people never understood it as that.
Kara Swisher: All right, all right. I found that to be a softball question and I don’t use that lightly. So what would you have phrased it? No matter what you do, you say it couldn’t have been anything but considered a softball.
Chris Cuomo: Well, look, I mean, what I would turn the question to is find me somebody who asked him a question during that phase that was more pointed than what I said, because what I said was a summary of the accusations.
Kara Swisher: Well, sure. But that’s like saying I did a C and everyone else did a D.
Chris Cuomo: But I wasn’t even in the class is what my point is.
Kara Swisher: I get it. But bringing him on to talk about it, you kind of have to be prepared and especially-
Chris Cuomo: Oh, I didn’t bring him on to talk about it. I brought him on because I was asked to have him on and it was going on and I felt I was going to have to ask about it. But again, that was a little bit of an impossible situation, which an ethicist could very easily say, yeah, that’s why you shouldn’t have had him on. And my response to that criticism is that was never my plan, to have him on. And when I did have him on, it was not about news and covering a governor of state. That’s all I’m saying. And I don’t think that it’s an easy case to make against me that I don’t know how to test people in power. So, I know how to ask the questions. I’m no Kara Swisher, but I know how to ask the questions. But nobody was expecting me to ask them of my brother. That’s my point.
Kara Swisher: Yes. I get that. I get that. From the get-go it’s a problematic thing no matter how you slice it. But there are more problems. So in late 2021 and early ‘22 your brother faces allegations of sexual harassment. You noted correctly you weren’t covering and you weren’t, but you were advising him, joining calls with staffers, encouraging him to stay defiant, not resign. Walk me into doing that. Now, I know you’ve talked about it a lot about here’s your brother, here’s your family. I was with my brother last night, very close to my brother. I would not have helped him if he was in a situation. I just wouldn’t. If I felt like it was a journalistic problem, I don’t think I would’ve helped him … but maybe I’m a terrible sister.
Chris Cuomo: What did your brother say when you said, I wouldn’t have helped you?
Kara Swisher: He said, that’s exactly what you do. [Laughs.] And then we had dinner. We’re very close family. I just feel like if he got into trouble, I would either stay away from it. I might help him personally, but I wouldn’t help him strategically.
Chris Cuomo: What’s the difference between helping him personally and strategically?
Kara Swisher: Oh, Chris, come on. I hope you’re okay. I would not have given him any advice, especially media advice. I wouldn’t have helped him with anything, practically anything.
Chris Cuomo: Why not?
Kara Swisher: It’s way too much of a conflict, a potential conflict of interest.
Chris Cuomo: But you’re not covering it.
Kara Swisher: Well, he was a national figure and you had already made him more of a national figure.
Chris Cuomo: But I wasn’t covering his allegations.
Kara Swisher: You’re covering the country and also you need to tell the listeners.
Chris Cuomo: Covering the country. [Laughs.]
Kara Swisher: You’re covering the country. Come on. It was a national news show.
Chris Cuomo: I told the audience, Kara—
Kara Swisher: You told—
Chris Cuomo: That—
Kara Swisher: The audience you were advising your brother.
Chris Cuomo: I’m helping my brother.
Kara Swisher: You’re helping him.
Chris Cuomo: Yeah. I was advising him. I was helping him in ways that I thought were reasonable.
Kara Swisher: Okay. You didn’t disclose ahead though. You did disclose in an apology, which you did do.
Chris Cuomo: I apologized. I’ll tell you why, Kara. Because I was told by my bosses that people at work felt that I had compromised their ability to do their job.
Kara Swisher: Yes.
Chris Cuomo: I did not know that. I did not feel that. But being told that, I absolutely never intended that. And if I had known going into it that me disclosing to my audience that I’m not going to cover my brother and he is my brother so I want to help him to the extent that I can, would’ve compromised CNN, I may have made different decisions. But I had no reason to believe that. And that’s why I apologized because the idea of compromising anybody else wasn’t my intention. And I’m very sorry if that were the case.
Kara Swisher: All right. Let’s play the on air apology, which you made in May 2021 when news of helping your brother was breaking in the news. Here’s a clip:
Chris Cuomo: This is a unique and difficult situation, and that’s okay. I know where the line is. I can respect it and still be there for my family, which I must. I have to do that. I love my brother. I love my family. I love my job and I love and respect my colleagues here at CNN. And again, to them, I am truly sorry.
Kara Swisher: So you say you knew where the line was, and in that case, when you were making that apology, and I’m not going to parse your apologies, what did you imagine the line was? That you crossed a line with your colleagues and hindered them or that you should have probably not done that?
Chris Cuomo: Look, anything that hurt the people that I was working with was not my intention. Now, again, I never had heard that. And I never, when I say felt it, I’m pretty good at understanding what’s happening in our business. And I’d never picked up that CNN was taking heat for what I was doing until it happened. And I think part of the reason was kind of the media dynamic and crowdsourced consequences and how they can spin into a frenzy. But I just understand the interest in understanding the dynamic. I just see it as so plain and obvious.
I don’t even know really what the value of the conversation is, to be honest. What was the line? Well, if you say that what I did hurt you, then I’m sorry because I never intended that. I had no idea that it was going to hurt you, you being the-
Kara Swisher: The audience.
Chris Cuomo: My colleagues, not the audience. I don’t know how it hurt the audience. I’ve never heard that it hurt the audience, from the audience. And again, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have respect for what you do and who you are. I don’t know what the value to the conversation is beyond pursuit of an inconsistency or some type of intellectual banter because it just seems like a very obvious situation to me. It was just unique because there’s nobody else in my position.
Kara Swisher: Well, actually I was. My wife was a big executive at Google. My ex-wife actually. I stopped covering Google. I put a disclosure about ten pages into our thing, and I made it dead clear to the audience what the problem was. So I get the problem.
Chris Cuomo: But, you didn’t quit your job, but I think that in your own experience then there should probably be some understanding because you didn’t—
Kara Swisher: I do understand. That’s why I wanted—
Chris Cuomo: You didn’t stop being a journalist.
Kara Swisher: I also would never have talked to her about any problems she had there or any issues or given her advice, etc., etc.
Chris Cuomo: All right. We differ on that. I don’t think that my ability to be a journalist is compromised by helping my family in a situation where I am not covering it at the same time, nor using my position to influence coverage of this.
Kara Swisher: So, you didn’t cause anything except advice essentially is what you’re saying. So the AG’s investigations made it worse, I guess, in lots of ways because they started talking about it, and obviously you talked to them. When they released those new materials, CNN immediately suspended you and four days later they fired you. So things changed because of this AG information. Correct?
Chris Cuomo: Yeah. A couple questions, because this is getting increasingly interesting to me, by the way, Kara.
Kara Swisher: All right. Good [Laughs.]
Chris Cuomo: I’m usually tired of even thinking about this because I got to move forward at some point. But I don’t mean that as a mitigator. I’m happy to have the conversation.
Kara Swisher: You can move in any direction you want.
Chris Cuomo: One, what do you think of the decision for them to call me in to be deposed?
Kara Swisher: I think it’s what prosecutors do. I’m not surprised by it.
Chris Cuomo: Really?
Kara Swisher: Yeah.
Chris Cuomo: Someone who doesn’t work in the office, who has no official connection, who was not described as material by the people they had interviewed in any way, you don’t think that was at all targeted towards causing a little bit of pain?
Kara Swisher: Probably. Yeah.
Chris Cuomo: There you go.
Kara Swisher: But that’s what they do.
Chris Cuomo: So—
Kara Swisher: I’m sorry. That’s not a surprise to me.
Chris Cuomo: Oh, no, no, no. Not like this.
Kara Swisher: Pressure and pain is what they do in many cases.
Chris Cuomo: No. They rarely call in a family member of a politician who had a side capacity in that.
Kara Swisher: Well, you were in the mix, maybe you knew something. Maybe they thought you knew something. Listen, I don’t know. But if you’re getting texts from Melissa DeRosa who worked for your brother, you reply, “on it.” I can see them doing this without thinking it’s unusual. You were in the mix and maybe you knew something.
Chris Cuomo: But they knew I was in the mix. That’s all I’m saying. And again, look, I put … CNN was in a bad position.
Kara Swisher: Yeah.
Chris Cuomo: I was in a bad position. My brother was in a bad position. The state was in a bad position. Everybody lost. And I have to be honest, I have always answered the questions. And I don’t believe it’s about serving the audience. I believe it’s about a standard that I really find fascinating that journalists want people to believe that they absolutely never, ever, no one ever talks to politicians about the situations they’re in and offers them advice. Really? Really, Kara? Come on.
Kara Swisher: Well.
Chris Cuomo: So the fact that it was my brother—
Kara Swisher: Yeah.
Chris Cuomo: And I was never involved as a main guy. I wasn’t a main guy either. And if you were to ask people in his administration, they’d say that not only was he a side piece, but he was a side piece where—
Kara Swisher: [Laughs.] A side piece.
Chris Cuomo: We often thought he didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.
Kara Swisher: All right. Chris Cuomo, side piece.
Chris Cuomo: I’m meaning a side aspect, not the way you’re taking it in your mind, Kara Swisher.
Kara Swisher: Okay. Because that’s where my mind goes, Chris. CNN has alleged that they didn’t know the extent which they used when after it suspended and fired you.
Chris Cuomo: I know and it’s the subject of an arbitration.
Kara Swisher: It is, indeed.
Chris Cuomo: And I’ll let that decide it.
Kara Swisher: At the same time, a sexual-harassment allegation was made, which you have denied. A letter was filed by attorney Debra Katz about her client who made an anonymous sexual misconduct allegation against you. The client was a former junior colleague of yours at another network. You have denied this, correct?
Chris Cuomo: Yes.
Kara Swisher: Okay. And they also alleged that you did a, I guess, a gimme segment on TV to keep her silent. You also have denied this.
Chris Cuomo: Yes.
Kara Swisher: And the reason you haven’t said much in the interview with Dan Abrams, you said you didn’t want to extend the drama of it. Because just by talking about it, it makes it worse.
Chris Cuomo: Yes.
Kara Swisher: Now, Jeff Zucker was a very close friend of yours, as I recall. Were you surprised he stopped backing you or did he have no choice?
Chris Cuomo: I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him.
Kara Swisher: Have you not talked to him?
Chris Cuomo: Nope.
Kara Swisher: One of the things that people at CNN, which you were just talking about, were angry at you about is they felt you were the one who pushed to disclose the romantic relationship he had with Allison Gollust, who was the powerful head of communications and marketing. Did you do that?
Chris Cuomo: No, I didn’t.
Kara Swisher: But you know people think you did that, correct?
Chris Cuomo: Kara, people think a lot of things and very often it’s for bad reason or self-serving reason or to hurt somebody else.
Kara Swisher: Did you think-
Chris Cuomo: I’ll tell you what.
Kara Swisher: Go ahead.
Chris Cuomo: Have you ever heard anybody offer any proof of the things that I did beyond the text messages that the attorney general had, who did not conclude what many in the media did about my involvement? Have you?
Kara Swisher: Did you think it was fair what happened to him and Allison Gollust?
Chris Cuomo: I am not happy about it. I didn’t, you know what I mean? It gave me no joy. I think he’s one of the best makers of television. I think he’s got one of the best heads for news I’ve ever been around. He gave me tremendous opportunities. Allison was always on point and good to me until this. Again, very regrettable, but I’m not the guy to play petty, gotcha shots and go after people. I spare others’ judgment and I put it on myself.
Kara Swisher: So you skew toward loyalty in that regard. Speaking of that, you do have a lot of friends at CNN. You have not talked to them, correct? Don Lemon or Jake Tapper or Zucker himself?
Chris Cuomo: Well, no. I mean, look, after Jeff fired me, I mean, there wasn’t a lot for us to talk about.
Kara Swisher: Okay, so now you’re suing CNN for $125 million. The suit justifies it by saying, “Cuomo had his journalistic integrity unjustifiably smeared, making it difficult, if not impossible, for Cuomo to find similar work in the future and damaging him in the amount exceeding $125 million.” Where does that stand? And you have a new job now, which I’d like to talk about, so you can be hired apparently.
Chris Cuomo: Well, do you believe that where I am now is equivalent to where I was?
Kara Swisher: Depends on what you do with it.
Chris Cuomo: I’m talking to you in my dining room. I was the number one show at CNN and I would be recognized in Malawi as much as I would be in Milwaukee. That is a very different-
Kara Swisher: You are hocking T-shirts on YouTube, you are. But I find that to be fantastic.
Chris Cuomo: Yeah, by the way, you made it sound like I’m some huckster.
Kara Swisher: You’re not a huckster.
Chris Cuomo: I’m raising money that we will give away.
Kara Swisher: We played the entire clip and it said that, didn’t it? It did.
Chris Cuomo: I know, but you just characterized in a way that was a little distasteful.
Kara Swisher: It’s teasing you.
Chris Cuomo: [Laughs.]
Kara Swisher: Yeah, I sell, I have lots of, I’m wearing swag right now. A pivot shirt, I’m wearing a code thing, please. Where is this lawsuit going to go? This whatever. This negotiation or litigation, arbitration. It’s arbitration.
Chris Cuomo: It goes wherever the facts lead it.
Kara Swisher: You are still pressing for $125 million?
Chris Cuomo: Look, we’ll see what the arbitration does.
Kara Swisher: Let’s take a quick break and when we come back, I want to talk about your new job in your dining room.
Chris Cuomo: Raking me over the coals.
Kara Swisher: You’re doing a new show On NewsNation launching October 3rd. What’s it called? The Chris Cuomo experience.
Chris Cuomo: No, that’s good though.
Kara Swisher: I know. Well, that’s the Joe Rogan show.
Chris Cuomo: I think Joe Rogan might fine me.
Kara Swisher: Yeah, that’s okay. You can take it. What’s he going to do?
Chris Cuomo: It’s called … Ready?
Kara Swisher: Yeah.
Chris Cuomo: Cuomo.
Kara Swisher: Say that again. [Laughs.] I’m kidding.
Chris Cuomo: Cuomo.
Kara Swisher: Please don’t, a deep voice. Okay.
Chris Cuomo: Catchy?
Kara Swisher: You just called Cuomo. Yeah, it works, it works. Now explain what NewsNation is. For those who don’t know, it’s backed by TV station giant Nexstar and presided over by Sean Compton. He’s very famous for making Sean Hannity’s career early on in radio.
Chris Cuomo: All the things he’s done and you pick making Sean Hannity first.
Kara Swisher: No, he did that. That’s what he’s famous for. It’s not a picked it, he did.
Chris Cuomo: I don’t know that’s what he’s famous for. I think that the way he’s built Nexstar. By the way, I think his boss, Perry Sook, would like some notice also. But I think how they’ve built that company is very impressive. Very impressive. I’m joining them because I like what they are about. I did not see growth in going back to places I had been before.
Kara Swisher: Did you have offers?
Chris Cuomo: Yeah. And as time has gone past, there has been more interest. Which is nice and expected because that’s the way our media culture works. What did that mean for me? Would I want to work at outlets that I now had different feelings about? Could I grow? How would it be perceived? So I wanted to try to build something and I think times have changed. And I think that Perry and Sean respect that at NewsNation and respect reach and respect the good fight.
The idea of they’re an unbiased news station. Everybody says they’re unbiased. You’re going to have to judge show by show and over time and see what they do. What I pitched them was I am not going to engage in the game. I’m not going to have people on and fan the flames of the current food fight. I’ll have anybody, but we have to have a constructive conversation. I don’t want to hear your explanation for why you are good is because I’m bad. I think we have to move past that because most people have moved past it.
Kara Swisher: So NewsNation originally was called, for people who don’t know, Project Neutral, which was interesting. They’ve had some up and down. Bill Shine hiring caused a lot of ruckus. He worked with the White House obviously and Fox News. But it’s branding itself, and you are branding yourself as nonpartisan, purveyor of truth.
Chris Cuomo: I’ve always been nonpartisan.
Kara Swisher: Having watched you every night, I would not agree with you. I think you spent years bashing Trump a lot. Much of which was deserved, but there’s definitely—
Chris Cuomo: When did I ever go after Trump for that was undeserved?
Kara Swisher: Well, it creates a situation at CNN where people feel that you have CNN here and Fox doing this. You know that, come on.
Chris Cuomo: No, I know that’s the game and the narrative.
Kara Swisher: Yes, which you were playing.
Chris Cuomo: Here’s my feeling. I think that that is a bullshit analysis. Not yours. I’m saying the idea that Fox defended him and CNN attacked him. On my show, here’s what I did. I gave then Donald Trump and then President Trump a fair hearing. If he said things that were demonstrably false, which he did frequently, I called it out because of how it erodes trust and it’s a crisis. I didn’t go after his kids and call names and all. I had Kellyanne on, I had his people on. I gave him his best case. Not like Hannity would, but I’m not his buddy. That’s not my business.
I don’t buy this. Well, you went after Trump and that makes me a lefty. I think Chuck Schumer has done Biden a disservice. I think he made him look foolish early on by not being able to give him reasonable expectations of outcome.
So now what am I? Am I righty? In the game, yes, and you’ll see that now. Well, people think that. Who cares if people think that? It’s why do they think it? If you look at Twitter right now, people say, well now he’s a righty. I am? Really? Why? Because I say things that are critical about the left that are now being understood in a new context? I want more parties. I want rank choice voting. I want term limits in Congress, and I want electors apportioned by the states that matter. Is that right or left or is it reasonable? I want more parties. I don’t care about the left and the right. I think it’s killing us.
Kara Swisher: I get it. I agree with you, but I think it’s against a backdrop of team playing which is what you described. There is this idea of-
Chris Cuomo: No, you say there’s a backdrop.
Kara Swisher: Oh come on.
Chris Cuomo: You have to establish that I’m part of it more than because people who don’t like my effectiveness go on Twitter and try to mitigate my effectiveness by saying I’m something bad.
Kara Swisher: But I think you’re ignoring what is happening in this country. I don’t think it’s 50 people on Twitter, I think there is real division. I think it’s been amplified and weaponized by the internet and social media and also by media itself. I say something all the time. Engagement equals engagement. Can you fight this?
Chris Cuomo: Oh, that’s good.
Kara Swisher: Thank you. You can use it any time. Can you fight this very powerful trend because you can’t get people to watch. Oddly, interesting enough, this is exactly what CNN is doing right now. How do you look at what they’re doing under Chris Licht, because that’s what they’re saying too.
Chris Cuomo: I have to see how it develops. They got great horses there. They have great resources. They cover news, which is something we all need to get back to. I mean, the embarrassment of how we’ve ignored Ukraine, Jackson, Mississippi. That’s what I’m going to do on my show. What are they going to do? I don’t know, we’ll see. I wish them well. I hope they’re success all over the place.
Kara Swisher: Do you have any thoughts about the changes there? Are you still in touch with—
Chris Cuomo: Not yet, I got to see what they are. But I don’t like the idea that they’re saying they’re going to be more middle ground. Look, I know that their new ownership had some reservations or concerns and there is some controversy surrounding that. I think a lot of people in the media like to see CNN go down because it was so powerful and they tried to make that happen because I believe that that’s what our business is often about is tearing things down as a negativity as a proxy for insight, but I don’t believe in middle ground. I believe that there’s left and right and then there’s reasonable and usually the three are very distinguishable from one another. Again, it’s boring to people, it’s tedious.
Kara Swisher: Can you get people watching?
Chris Cuomo: Yes.
Kara Swisher: NewsNation is small. 50,000, 80,000 versus a million.
Chris Cuomo: So what? First of all, two things, three things. One, so is your audience, but you’re very influential. Why? You should be. You’re smart, you think about things.
Kara Swisher: I think I’m bigger than NewsNation [Laughs.] but go ahead.
Chris Cuomo: Well, but it’s just starting, okay? People know me in a way they don’t know you.
Kara Swisher: Yeah, that’s true.
Chris Cuomo: And who cares? I’m a fan. All right. I like what you do.
Kara Swisher: No, I don’t care.
Chris Cuomo: What I’m saying is it’s okay if you’re not the biggest. You don’t have to be the biggest. You have to resonate with people that matter. And I’m not looking to feed the fire breathers or the fringes. There’s enough of that. That doesn’t mean that there’s not a need for this, in fact, a desperation for this. And I think I see that in my own growth. And, yes, NewsNation is a startup. That’s okay. I dig that by the way.
Kara Swisher: You’re an entrepreneur by way. Chris Cuomo, entrepreneur.
Chris Cuomo: I dig that because I’ll tell you what, I don’t know shit about being an entrepreneur, but I’m learning. I’ve never really been attracted and I’ve never really been attracted to money as an end. So figuring out cash flows and monetization and stuff like that, it’s hard for me because I don’t have a natural appetite for it, but it’s an interesting exercise. And this is the best answer I have. I like that it’s a startup because I’m not coming into an audience that has been preconditioned. It’s going to be organically grown there, and I dig that. And I think the audience is vast. And I must point out to people who say it doesn’t exist, they said that about Trump too. And everybody knew who has traveled this country that there were tons of disaffected, disenfranchised feeling white people. And that was the strength of Fox News where I worked. So I was not surprised by that. I knew it existed. I knew who Steve King and Tom Tancredo and those guys were playing to, and I knew it was real. And the media was like, “Nah, nah, nah, nah.”
Kara Swisher: Yes.
Chris Cuomo: They were wrong because a lot of media’s out of touch. I’m not.
Kara Swisher: So you think now those disaffected people are the reasonable people?
Chris Cuomo: I think there are reasonable people. I think some of them are disaffected people. I think some of the people who voted for Trump did so for bad reason, some people did it for good reason, and some people did it for no reason. They felt they had no choice. They could not vote for Hillary Clinton. She represents everything that’s wrong with politics to them and they were not going to reward lawmakers who they think are perfidious in the main to tell them that Donald Trump was unworthy of joining their ranks. And I’d say, instead of going after Trump all the time, which, again, the media’s doing with this civil suit, keyword civil.
Kara Swisher: So you are not impressed by AG James’s work right now?
Chris Cuomo: No, no, no. That’s not fair or accurate. I’m saying, if the behavior is as egregious as she outlined, and I have no reason to believe that it isn’t, then why aren’t these criminal charges? Why isn’t the New York DA bringing them? It’s been referred to the SDNY and the IRS. Why aren’t they bringing cases then? Now, I’m not saying that that’s suspicious. I’m saying the bar is high. He’s going to say you are victimizing him. And we have to examine it very carefully, especially where Trump is involved. Because every time you swing and miss, it erodes confidence.
Kara Swisher: Okay. I do want to end on family and your brother. Just one quick question, though, if CNN tried to hire you back for 10 million a year, would you go?
Chris Cuomo: If ifs and buts were cherries and nuts, we’d all have a beautiful Christmas.
Kara Swisher: Okay. [Laughs.] Where did you get that? I don’t even want to know. All right.
Chris Cuomo: You can have that one, by the way.
Kara Swisher: You can keep it.
Chris Cuomo: I’m moving forward.
Kara Swisher: Okay.
Chris Cuomo: I’m moving forward, Kara. I’m moving forward.
Kara Swisher: You put that one down and it’s a good idea to do so. What’s your relationship with your brother like now?
Chris Cuomo: [Laughs.]
Kara Swisher: Good? I don’t know. What’s it like?
Chris Cuomo: What’s your relationship like with your brother?
Kara Swisher: Well, he kind of got you fired.
Chris Cuomo: He’s my brother.
Kara Swisher: The thing got you fired.
Chris Cuomo: He’s my brother.
Kara Swisher: Okay. All right.
Chris Cuomo: I just feel like there’s such an odd disconnect between media and regular people. People love their family. This is not unique. It is not special. It is not conditional. Nobody gets along all the time in a family. That’s a lie if people say they do. They’re lying. And that’s okay too, if that’s what they want to do. But, of course, I love my brother.
Kara Swisher: Okay.
Chris Cuomo: Of course, you love your brother.
Kara Swisher: Are you going to have him on your show?
Chris Cuomo: I mean, I haven’t planned on it.
Kara Swisher: Yeah, maybe not.
Chris Cuomo: I mean, why would I have him on? I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know. I mean, he is not in office. I don’t know. I think if I had him on people like you would feast on it for three days in a row. I don’t know.
Kara Swisher: [Laughs.] What do I care, people like me?
Chris Cuomo: I don’t know. I’d have to see.
Kara Swisher: I’m not a media critic. I could care less if you have him on. It’s your show. You own it.
Chris Cuomo: All media — all media are media critics. That’s what we do in this business, Kara.
Kara Swisher: Ay — not really.
Chris Cuomo: We talk about each other.
Kara Swisher: All right. Okay. Well, not a bad thing. He also, just to settle this, he’s filed an ethics investigation into AG James. Are you advising him on this?
Chris Cuomo: I have nothing to do with it because I don’t really have any help that I can offer and he does not need me answering for him. He’s a big boy. He can answer his own situations.
Kara Swisher: All right, last question. I know you have to go. We’re going to ask guests on the show to give unsolicited advice to various people, but I’m going to change it a bit for you. What advice do you think your father — famous for City on the Hill ethics and fantastic speeches, etcetera — would give you right now?
Chris Cuomo: I told you that Kara Swisher is a gotcha chasing.
Kara Swisher: [Laughs.] No, I’m not.
Chris Cuomo: I’ll tell you what he would say because he said it many times. He would say — of course, it depends on the context, about, let’s say, just to make it easy, what do you do professionally — Help. Help, and balance what you do professionally with your real responsibilities, which are to your family, to your kids, to your friends. That’s your real work. Your real work is taking care of your own. And, hopefully, if you’re blessed the way I am, that’s an expansive circle. But make sure you’re helping. Be a part of something bigger than yourself. My father was obsessed with that. Now, he was not a huge — let’s say this the right way — he did not love the idea of me going into the media when I left the law and finance. He believes this is a very compromised industry and he believed that I would always be a target.
Kara Swisher: All right, last, very last question. Can you build back that trust or do you think you’re just starting again?
Chris Cuomo: I don’t think I have a— Am I going to build back my trust with the people who believe for bad and no reason that I did things that I didn’t do? I got to respect the source before I respect the criticism. I’m talking to you because I respect you. I answer your questions the best I can because they’re fine. I don’t think they’re the most helpful questions for your audience, but that’s okay. If you want to ask them, you ask them. I don’t think that the audience has the same interest in it that we do and I don’t think that it’s about people feeling a certain way that has to be changed. And what the industry thinks of me, I’ve never been a favorite. I’m probably the only number one show at a network that nobody ever wrote about being number one. Now, part of that is because I don’t do a lot of interviews because I believe that a lot of the outcomes are obvious and often net to neutral or negative and not worth the effort.
Kara Swisher: [Laughs.] You really are a politician’s son.
Chris Cuomo: I am no politician.
Kara Swisher: Son.
Chris Cuomo: I hate politics. I would never enter politics. I would never suggest someone go into politics. I do respect many of the people who make that decision because I know they’re doing it for the right reasons. But it’s not for me. It is not for me. This is for me. I’m okay with this. I like this. I like being engaged, I like engaging, but I’m definitely changed by the experience, and that’s okay. I think people make a big, big mistake in their own mind when they take themselves too seriously and think they’re too special.
Kara Swisher: On that, we will end — me and my bad questions. [Laughs.] People are interested. You’re wrong.
Chris Cuomo: Do you have another last question?
Kara Swisher: No, that was it, unless you have another one.
Chris Cuomo: You said “last question” like 17 times.
Kara Swisher: I always say, “Last question.” That’s my thing.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
On With Kara Swisher is produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Cristian Castro Rossel, and Rafaela Siewart, with mixing by Fernando Arruda, engineering by Christopher Shurtleff, and theme music by Trackademics. New episodes will drop every Monday and Thursday. Follow the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.