New gig Co-host of CNN’s New Day
Old gig Co-anchor of ABC’s 20/20
So, your father is Mario Cuomo, your brother is Andrew Cuomo—why go into news and not politics?
The biggest reason for it is the name you left out—it’s Matilda Cuomo. What mom teaches all of us is that it’s about helping other people. She does advocacy, she does teaching, she does cancer [serving on the board of multiple cancer advocacy organizations]. I was never looking to be popular, I was never looking to be famous. I grew up around that examination of personality, and it’s not something I seek out. The trade-off for me in seeking other people’s opinions is the potential to help that you get in the media. And we don’t always do that, but when we do, it’s a beautiful thing. To be able to connect people to tragedy so they help is good. That’s what drew me to this business. It wasn’t necessarily about an easier or better life for me, but it was about being more useful to people.
That’s very noble.
Don’t take what I’m saying as self-righteous, because it isn’t. I’m completely divorced from ideology. Politics are important, but beautiful moments that show the triumph of the human spirit are just as important as how the IRS thing is going to shake out. You wake up in the morning; what do you want to know? You want to know what happened overnight. You want to know if you’re safe. You want to know if you’re family’s safe. You can’t just talk politics all the time—it’s boring.
How did you make the call to leave ABC for CNN?
Tough decision. Loved ABC, loved the people there, had a gig I was lucky to have. The opportunity to be a part of making something better and get back into the mix and be relevant … was very tempting to me.
How do you feel about the new responsibilities?
I think the biggest difference is that it’s not easy to be on TV a lot. We in the network world are used to having time constraints and saying only what you have already thought through 150 times, because you don’t have that much expansive opportunity. On cable, you’re on TV for huge blocks of time, because there’s a stamina issue, there’s a rhythm issue, and there’s a reporting issue about how often you get to verify things, how confident you are, because cable evolves the story. The network is generally coming in after the fact. They’re late to the game.
What will the new show look like?
We take our jobs very seriously here at New Day, but we do not take ourselves very seriously. If it matters to people, it matters to us. The boundary that we may cross, in an unusual way, is that there may be a tendency for me to advocate more than people are used to on television. I believe that advocacy journalism is not an oxymoron. If that means that I’m going to disrupt the cable, partisan fracas of obsession over what this means from left and right, then so be it. I will be disruptive of it. People don’t put their politicians into office to see these internecine disputes between left and right.
Give me an example of how you’d play out that philosophy.
Fiscal cliff—how did it play out in the news media? Will it happen? When will it happen? To me, it was an outrage. You were sent there to cut a deal, and you didn’t cut a deal, and so you’re going to punish me, the taxpayer? It was an outrage and a disgrace, and it should have been treated that way. I would have done those interviews by asking, “Are you kidding me? You’re telling me people won’t give you what you want, and so your constituents are out of a job?”
Photo: Elizabeth Lippman