By: Ben F, Peter J, Devin W, Ryan S
The current issue is that Chris Cuomo was caught assisting his brother Andrew Cuomo with dealing with sexual assault allegations. This is an issue because Chris is a head journalist at a massive news organization and his brother Andrew is the governor of New York. There’s conflict in their jobs from an ethical standpoint and there is a conflict of interest with the fact that they’re brothers together. It was later that someone stepped forward alleging that Chris had sexually assaulted her as well.
CNN is a publicly-traded company founded in 1980, being the first-ever 24-hour news channel. Since then they have built off of that unique feature, and become a well-known source for important events in America and across the world. CNN has always been very involved with politics, going all the way back to the 1988 Presidential debate between George Bush and Michael Dukakis when reporter Bernard Shaw from CNN was a moderator. In 1997, CNN reporter Peter Bergen was the first-ever American journalist to interview Osama Bin Laden, and in this famous interview, he declared war on the United States. Another famous moment that they captured was nine-eleven when they were the first national news channel to break the news. They have been a major source for decades, consistently staying involved with major events. It is because of their reputation that CNN was so quick to fire Chris. He decided to defend his brother despite the high number of allegations against him, and CNN felt it was too much risk to keep Chris on their team. Chris’s actions of aiding and strategizing with his brother’s political aides were certainly outside of the journalist precedents, and CNN was uncomfortable with what would result.
The stakeholders, in this case, would be CNN viewers, Cuomo Family (Chris and Andrew), stockholders, the general public, and Jeff Zucker (CNN Management).
CNN viewer: Would be a stakeholder because they are directly affected by the decisions CNN decides to make. Recurring audiences can favor a particular journalist and say in this case the viewer loved Chris Cuomo, then they're going to have to find another option. But for every other CNN viewer who didn’t typically watch Chris Cuomo's show will benefit in a positive way because he won't ever be on CNN again.
Andrew Cuomo & Chris Cuomo: This will ultimately negatively impact Andrew because it exposes the mistakes he's made in regards to sexual harassment while he was the governor of New York at the time. For his brother Chris if he were to win the lawsuit in fiscal terms he will be positively impacted but if he loses this would negatively impact him because he wouldn't be awarded the $125 million. The scandal as a whole shines a bad light on the Cuomo family because of the actions his brother took.
Stockholders: Since CNN is a public company there would have to be affected in one way or another. In the NPR article, it states that Andrew Cuomo being interviewed by his brother Chris during the lockdowns boosted ratings but also states in the article that Zucker and Gollust (CNN management) had Gov. Cuomo moves his Covid-19 briefings to the afternoon to help the network boost its weaker ratings during those hours. (Shivaram) It’s plausible that during this scenario of Chris and Andrew on live television during the Covid-19 briefings that CNN’s stock rose because of the attraction the public has to this family. But after the public found out about this case and how this was all a calculated decision on behalf of CNN to boost ratings stockholders had to have lost belief and trust in the company. When management is partaking in shady actions like these ones, it's rare that stockholders would become bullish or optimistic about the country’s future and invest capital into it.
General Public: as a whole benefit from this case because they will never have to watch Chris Cuomo again on CNN or be governed by his brother Andrew in New York. People like this have no business being on national television let alone being governor of a state. People oftentimes watch the news to be “filled in” on the latest top stories, not listen to someone cover for his brother who is the governor at the time and has serious allegations against him. I think society as benefits because the person who has sexual allegations against him isn't in power in New York anymore and also viewers of CNN can trust the company more and the direction that it's headed.
CNN Management & Company (Jeff Zucker): They as a whole benefit positively from this case. The company and Zucker don't have to deal with bad headlines about the Cuomo brothers that negatively affect their brand and reputation.
This makes their life easier, relieving a big headache from their life. It must be extremely difficult working with someone and being productive when all these negative headlines or coming out about them. It makes the work-life atmosphere as a whole less stressful and more enjoyable for CNN employees. Another interesting point is that CNN being on the national news makes this even a bigger deal because of the competition and how there aren't many other national news companies. Viewers could easily become alarmed with all the negative noise about CNN and view CNN as not a credible news source and watch another big-time national news station like Fox News.
Individualism is an ethical theory that is primarily interested in the individual's personal moral concerns rather than the society as a whole. There are a couple different perceptions of how individualism works. According to Adam Smith, we should only worry about our own self-interest and the rest will fall in place. Friedman believed that the only obligation by a business is to maximize profit, therefore they must act in the best interest of the stockholders. Tibor Machan’s ideology is very similar, however, he believed that in order to maximize profit you must sometimes indirectly raise your profit. CNN firing Chris would definitely follow Machan’s theory on individualism. While they could keep raising their profits, they aimed to avoid any possible turmoil from the situation and maximize their profit by terminating him and replacing his show. Not only could the company get a bad look for supporting Andrew in his defense against the allegations, but Chris would also be unable to report unbiasedly on the situation with his brother. This was certainly playing their position safely, but by doing so CNN was able to maintain high profits.
The decision by Chris to stay completely out of the situation in order to support his brother was more true to Adam Smith’s theory. He was mainly concerned with what was best for himself and his family. Defending his brother against the public was certainly the best way he could aid him during the allegations against him, which was certainly his main interest. His first comment to the media was “I’m not an adviser, I’m a brother. I never attacked nor encouraged anyone to attack any woman who came forward. I never made calls to the press about my brother’s situation”(New York Times). Chris wants to make it clear to the public that his main intention is to aid his brother without influencing the media’s coverage of the event. Chris was successful because his brother Andrew was found innocent, so his moral concern for his family was achieved. Chris’s focus on his individual morals allowed him to protect his family without breaking any laws, however, this cost him his job and reputation.
A utilitarian would believe that CNN made the right decision by firing Chris Cuomo because this “maximizes the overall good” or producing “the greatest good for the greatest number” Salzar (36). A Utilitarian also believes in what is best for the majority which would be firing Chris, and the president for breaking company policy and contract, as well as benefiting the public and doing what’s correct, and they broke policy. Overall the firing of Chris Cuomo maximizes happiness for the majority of stakeholders in this scenario, the only negatively affected stakeholder is Chris Cuomo and his brother. The stakeholders that happiness was maximized would be:
CNN: CNN will in the end be positively impacted after following its own company policies by firing Chris and the Ex-President Zucker and maximizing happiness for all CNN fans and CNN. Getting rid of a bad look on your company benefits the company and its supporters and stockholders, the company's reputation is the most important thing. If Chris gets his 125 million dollars it will negatively impact CNN but only temporarily, so in the end, the better of the company is more important.
Someone who follows Immanuel Kant’s code of ethics would say that CNN made the correct ethical decision in terminating Chris Cuomo’s contract. Under Kantianism, people and entities should need their autonomy, and individual needs and differences respected. Chris Cuomo was easily one of CNN’s biggest news anchors, if not their largest, so their firing Cuomo can seriously hurt their ratings if a significant number of people only tune in to watch Chris Cuomo’s broadcast. But by keeping him hired just so they can retain the viewers and therefore continue to make money off of him CNN would go against Kant's "Duty or the moral law". Firing Cuomo was the right thing to do after he demonstrated multiple actions of his own self-interest and not those of the company and people.
CNN respected Cuomo's rationality when he first helped out his brother by letting him off with a warning. But after Cuomo had gone behind CNN's back to help his brother again after explicitly being told not to and sexual assault allegations came out against him it was clear that CNN had to fire Cuomo for the goodwill of the company.
A virtue ethics believer believes that virtues depend on two things. Firstly, they depend on the way things function. Second, they depend on the circumstances. Our professor gives us an example of this in the Business Ethics and virtue lecture video. She compares this to the conditions a computer is in; the computer could be good or bad. For example, a gamer might hate her computer because it doesn't have the capability to be able to view the quick pace of games or interact with gaming software, but someone who isn’t into gaming may love this product. People who have certain circumstances will give us certain virtues. The virtues that we then discuss are broken down into virtues of character and intellectual virtue. There are 4 cardinal virtues: Courage, Tempairness, Justice/Fairness, and Honesty. Then there is one intellectual virtue called Prudence. Prudence is the ability to make good decisions considering your future. Virtue theory also embraces the doctrine of meaning. This meaning of virtue lies in between the two extremes. The vice of cowardness and the vice of rashness. One who believes in virtue ethics could look at this in multiple ways. (Business ethics and virtue)
Courage: One way to look at this case is from the lens that Chris Cuomo is courageous. Despite going against his company's wishes, Chris defended his brother and allegedly helped his brother strategize to fight the sexual harassment allegations. Courage can be defined as risk-taking and willingness to stand for the right ideas and actions. A virtue ethics believer would view Chris as courageous by risking his reputation and job employment to stand up for what he believes to be the right ideas and actions. But they would also view Chris as not standing for the right ideas or actions. In one lens some might look at defending your brother as the “right idea and action” but others might view it negatively because he's helping his brother who has serious felony accusations against him.
Honesty: Honesty by definition is in agreements, hiring, and treatment of employees, customers, and other companies. A virtue ethics believer would view that Chris might have to learn to be virtuous. You don't just pop out of the womb as a good person. Chris in some eyes would be viewed as dishonest or lying after he was fired for “ being unaware of the full extent of the former anchor's efforts to aid his brother.” Companies aren’t quick to accuse their employees of egregious actions like this one, so in some eyes, Chris is just lying and covering in hopes to salvage his brother's reputation and the family name. In other eyes, fans of Chris Cuomo or supporters might view him as being honest and just standing up for his brother for what he believes to be right. We would have to let the lawsuit unfold and more details to come before we can make the judgment if Chris has been honest or not. (Mullin)
Temperance: Temperance from the lecture video can be described as “reasonable expectations and desires.” In this case, it's hard to judge how reasonable Chris seeking $125 million is. According to yahoo.com after being fired from CNN Chris Cuomo has a net worth of $12 million after earning $6 million annually for his role as the host of “Cuomo Prime Time.” I think most people who believe in virtue ethics would think Chris is seeking reasonable expectations and desires because he did make millions of dollars a year and is said to be valued at over ten million dollars so $125 million for a person that might never make $6 million a year or host his own show again this seems like a reasonable number for someone of his stature. (Yahoo)
Justice: According to the lecture video, Justice can be defined as hard work, quality products, good ideas, and fair practices. One who believes in virtue ethics would believe Chris embodies this cardinal virtue. Chris earned his law degree in 1995 then switched roles and decided to become a television journalist. Within the next few years, Chris became the youngest correspondent ever on the show 20/20 before joining CNN in 2013. Hard work is hard to categorize because it's subjective and it is your opinion of what you deem to qualify as “hard work.” In my mind, someone who finishes law school alone is a hard worker because of the rigorous workload and many years of schooling. In my mind, Chris embodies the cardinal virtue of justice, and most virtue ethics believers would agree. (Business ethics and virtue)
The current issue is that Chris Cuomo was caught assisting his brother Andrew Cuomo with dealing with sexual assault allegations. This is an issue because Chris is a head journalist at a massive news organization and his brother Andrew is the governor of New York. There’s conflict in their jobs on an ethical standpoint and there is a conflict of interest with the fact that they’re brothers together. It was later that someone stepped forward alleging that Chris had sexually assaulted her as well. A warning should be issued to Cuomo about him helping his brother, because of his position in the company and he has been a good employee since hiring, his value is too high to fire over one offense. Once he was found to continue to help and over the sexual assault allegations he should be put on temporary leave while an investigation is underway then based on the results of the investigation either lift his leave or fire him. These decisions are the most ethical that will allow CNN to be viewed as a more reputable news source. This will show viewers that CNN is taking this seriously and they believe in the rule of law. This will enhance viewership for the company which will increase profits. For CNN, this would set an example for other people in the company on the code of conduct and show the commitment to rules, laws, and facts.
The appropriate ethical steps of Action to be ethical that CNN needs to take is
1) A single warning to Chris Cuomo, he has been with the company for a long time and works very hard at his job. This one issue shouldn't warrant immediate termination as a warning will suffice in getting the message across to him that what he did was not okay.
2) after finding out he had potentially helped again a leave of absence should be issued while an investigation goes underway of what exactly happened. A decision will be made based on what is found during the investigation
3) since sexual assault allegations have come out against Cuomo and he is already on a leave of absence for previous wrongdoings, termination should be the final course of action
CNN’s mission statement
Their current mission statement is, “to inform, engage and empower the world.” It focuses on the viewing audience and the content that CNN provides to them, but it fails to address the quality of the content and the people providing it to you. The new mission statement I propose for CNN is “To deliver the news as ethically and truthfully as possible with only the best in the industry delivering to you” (Harryman 1).
CNN Core Values (Harryman 1)
Important (“News Worthy”)
How to prevent this problem from occurring again
There shouldn’t be any policy changes since Cuomo had broken a policy that was already in place, but new training should be done for these rare situations. Reiteration that as a journalist you can’t engage with politicians to help their campaigns even if they are family as it goes directly against the journalistic code of ethics.
Types of hiring, firing, and promoting procedures will help the company to flourish after the controversy. Firing Cuomo will help the company flourish since this would sever the company from the controversy and show that CNN takes these situations seriously. It will also set a precedent in the future that CNN will take action even against people that are at the top of the company if it is in the best interest of the people and the company.
Explain what kinds of marketing or remarketing need to be done for the company, especially in the case of bad publicity due to the ethical difficulty it faced.
I think an announcement that CNN has parted ways with Cuomo would be good enough, it’s best for these kinds of situations to address them early and professionally and to make a good statement that shouldn’t need to be reiterated..
How your plan will promote business profits and productivity, and how it conforms to the mission and core values and ensures good ethics
With our plan, we will be enticing more viewers to believe CNN is headed in a positive direction by displaying trustful, important, and unbiased information. This will lead to more profitability and productivity for the company as more and more people start to take notice. Our new mission statement hopes to deliver news as ethically and truthfully as possible with only the best in the industry delivering to you.
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Shivaram, Deepa. “Chris Cuomo Seeks $125 Million after Being Fired from CNN.” NPR, NPR, 17 Mar. 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/03/17/1087167551/chris-cuomo-cnn-125- million.
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