Opinion

TMI: Cuomo goes full Trump on reporter

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TMI: Cuomo goes full Trump on reporter

Last Friday I visited the Albany headquarters of Spectrum News to tape a reporter roundtable segment with Liz Benjamin and Nick Reisman for Capital Tonight. What I saw was is all-too-familiar in New York–a room full of journalists wondering whether they might soon lose their jobs.

For years now Capital Tonight has been an astonishingly rich resource on policy and politics for New York’s voters. Benjamin has essentially reshaped New York politics and political journalism during the span of her career–launching and popularizing political blogs for the Times Union, New York Daily News and currently Spectrum.

Yes, Charter Spectrum is a very easy bad guy in this situation–they promised to expand broadband access to rural New Yorkers and by most accounts failed miserably.

I canceled my cable subscription long ago because I have no interest in being bilked by a company that can’t even hide its disregard for the people it services.

But the journalists that work for Charter–especially the folks at Capital Tonight and NY1, are fiercely independent and have a history of maintaining their good work during major corporate upheaval.

I wasn’t surprised that Gov. Andrew Cuomo convened his Public Service Commission last week to effectively hand Charter Spectrum its walking papers–giving it 60 days to provide a plan to exit the state.

I am surprised at how brazenly Cuomo has flaunted his power to crush the press while taking questions from reporters who work for Spectrum. Especially given his recent push to “save” the New York Daily News after owners Tronc slashed the staff by half.

If Gov. Andrew Cuomo had an unsubscribe button I would be smashing that right now. In fact it would almost certainly be smashed to pieces. I have no taste for politicians who have no regard for freedom of press and the voters it serves. 

Asked by Spectrum/NY1 reporter Zack Fink about a scandal consuming Fox Run one of his major political donors that appears to have gotten special attention from the administration after allegedly utilizing straw donors, Cuomo answered but quickly shifted his response to the “fraud” committed by Fink’s employer.

Last week Cuomo had a familiar response for Fink who wanted to know how Cuomo’s campaign counted small donors. Cuomo’s campaign touted  having small donors but after scrutiny it was revealed that a number of people close to his campaign donated large amounts over very small donations.

Cuomo told Fink:

“I don’t want to argue with you. I already have a lawsuit with your station, as you know.”

This is the same Governor who dodged questions about his office’s handling of sexual harassment by lecturing veteran public radio reporter Karen DeWitt about sexual harassment in journalism.

This was an unforced error during a heated political campaign and Cynthia Nixon’s spokesperson jumped on it, telling me: “Cuomo can’t hold himself up as New York’s answer to Donald Trump, and simultaneously threaten members of the press for doing their job. The Governor owes Zach an apology. Zach was doing exactly what the free press is supposed to do. He was holding a powerful public official accountable for taking shady donations. The Governor responded by threatening him with legal action twice in two weeks. Public officials have a responsibility to protect and honor the freedom of the press.”

Cuomo’s actions lead to one question: Was his decision to kick Charter out of the state politically motivated? Or is he just trying to use his power over Charter as leverage over reporters who expose inconvenient truths about his campaign? He is clearly using that power blatantly against reporters. If he had the self-control not to make these comments to Fink, we wouldn’t have to ask.

Cuomo is frequently compared to Donald Trump by the people who cover him. These comments are perhaps the best indication that Cuomo, like the president, has no shame, no sense of responsibility, and no qualms about using all his power to smash anyone who dares question him.

Here is the transcript of Cuomo’s interaction with Fink today from Jon Campbell of Gannett. 

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