Compare and Contrast: Media Coverage of Andrew Cuomo’s Coronavirus Failure vs. Ron DeSantis’ Success
“You can be as incompetent as you want to be, as long as your performance pleases media outlets and you win the hearts of cable TV pundits and personalities,” said Nation columnist Ross Barkan on NY Gov. Cuomo’s high approval ratings.
As both a media critic and a follower of all things political, it has been both fascinating and maddening at the same time to compare the media’s coverage of NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak in his state to their coverage of FL Gov. Ron DeSantis’s handling of the outbreak in his state.
In early to mid-March when the media really began to focus more on the seriousness of the virus after downplaying it in the two months prior, DeSantis was hammered by news outlets like CNN and MSNBC for not issuing a statewide stay at home/lockdown-style order as videos of teenagers frolicking on the beaches were broadcast on an endless loop and shared all over social media, a hotbed for mob outrage.
In contrast to how DeSantis was routinely being ripped to shreds by the national press over things like teenagers on Florida beaches, Gov. Cuomo was (and still is) treated with the utmost reverence in spite of the political tug of war that played out between Cuomo and NYC Gov. Bill de Blasio in the early days over what actions should be taken (and who would take credit/blame for them) in the city that would ultimately become the epicenter for the virus in the United States.
Couple how city and state leaders encouraged people to go to parades and visit Chinatown in February and early/mid march with Cuomo’s and de Blasio’s failure to work together to come up with a unified, coherent strategy. As the New York Times would write well after the virus had overtaken the city, all of this ultimately played a key, devastating role in the virus’s rapid-fire spread – not just in New York, but all over the country.
In fact, Cuomo’s failures, from the nursing homes scandal to the fact that it was only just last week he ordered NYC subways to be shut down nightly in order to be cleaned and sanitized, have long been apparent. But that hasn’t stopped the media fawning. Gov. Cuomo often appears on his brother Chris Cuomo’s CNN program during the week in fluffy segments designed to showcase his human side and supposed leadership skills. Among other shows, Cuomo has been a guest on Ellen, Jimmy Fallon’s program, and on Howard Stern’s radio show.
On the other hand, this is how DeSantis gets treated by networks like MSNBC. Watch below as anchor Brian Williams asks a guest if DeSantis can “keep saying ‘I was waiting for the feds to give the order’, keep ignoring what’s been going on in the other states with the other governors, or is he going to be forced to own whatever the consequences are in the Sunshine state?”:
Considering Florida has a larger population* than New York but has had considerably fewer numbers of cases and deaths, why has Cuomo been treated like a rock star while DeSantis who, judging by the case numbers we’re seeing out Florida, has handled the outbreak there admirably in spite of the intense ongoing media scorn?
I think the answers are pretty obvious.
1) Cuomo is a Democrat who has at times been harshly critical of Trump, and DeSantis is a Republican – and a supporter of President Trump’s.
2) Cuomo is in the center of a major media/entertainment metropolis, and they have quick and easy access to him for interviews and puff pieces – CNN especially, for obvious reasons. While he does get the occasional tough question, the vast majority of national media outlets are going to plump his pillow often so they can have him on to contrast his leadership style with DeSantis’ – and Trump’s – regardless of what actual data says on case numbers and hospital peaks.
If you doubt the power of the press, recognize that Gov. Ron DeSantis handled covid-19 in Florida in excellent fashion, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo handled it nearly as badly as humanly possible, yet DeSantis has dropped in polls and Cuomo is at the height of popularity.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) May 8, 2020
“Nation” contributor Ross Barkan, a Democrat, posted some tweets which I think best explain why the differences in coverages – and why it’s so troubling:
Andrew Cuomo's approval rating has surged beyond 80 percent. New York is the global epicenter for COVID-19 and there's little the government did well to contain the virus in its early stages. 20,000+ people have died. It is truly one of the most remarkable PR coups of all-time.
— Ross Barkan (@RossBarkan) May 7, 2020
It’s a dark lesson for future executives. You can be as incompetent as you want to be, as long as your performance pleases media outlets and you win the hearts of cable TV pundits and personalities. It also helps to have yourself compared to Donald Trump and Bill de Blasio.
— Ross Barkan (@RossBarkan) May 7, 2020
The Katrina analogy is apt. New York has failed badly at this by the only metric that matters, which is the number of people who have died from COVID-19. It did not have to be this way. We will spend months and years – with independent investigations, I hope – figuring out why. https://t.co/Cdu614Q8UA
— Ross Barkan (@RossBarkan) May 8, 2020
Unfortunately, no matter how bad those investigations may ultimately make Cuomo look, don’t expect the media to give them much if any attention. The point of all this in their eyes is to prop up a Democrat to get rid of a Republican, no matter how badly that Democrat botched the handling of the deadly outbreak in which his state, sadly, played the wrong kind of leading role.
*Article updated by the author to note Florida has a larger population than NY, not “much larger” as originally written.
— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —DONATE
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