A (Cautionary) Tale of Two Brothers

CNN news anchor Chris Cuomo revealed a COVID diagnosis March 31, posting the update to Twitter and noting concern for his family ahead of his own health. "I am quarantined in my basement (which actually makes the rest of the family seem pleased!)" he wrote.

Despite symptoms ("chills, fever, shortness of breath") and the audio/video quality challenges that stem from broadcasting from his basement, Cuomo has continued to work.

Last night Cuomo was choked up as he interviewed and thanked a Georgia nurse, who, like many healthcare workers, has begun referring to the virus as "The Beast." Wiping his tearstained face following the interview, Cuomo said, "I can touch my face, I’m already sick," warning viewers to "think about what they can do to make that less likely to happen."

"The curve is gonna get steeper," Cuomo said, echoing language his elder brother, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, used during his now-legendary daily press conferences.

While many communications pros may roll their eyes when they read the word "authenticity," there isn’t really a more fitting word to describe the quality both Cuomos have exhibited in recent days as they put family dynamics at the forefront of their messaging.

Case in point: Gov. Cuomo brought his daughter Michaela to join his March 19 press conference (his "Words Matter" mantra that day may be of interest to PR pros) as he urged young people to stop partying during spring break. The Governor also christened a measure restricting movement for vulnerable populations, including those 70 and older, "Matilda’s Law"—named for his mother.

While it may have come off as a scold, particularly to younger audiences, openly sharing discussions he’d had with his daughter showed audiences a different angle of the politician, long perceived as a "control freak" and "bully," according to Ben Smith's complimentary New York Times op-ed.

Indeed, Gov. Cuomo has seen several media accolades recently, prompting a “Will Cuomo Run for President?” narrative.

The positive press has quieted the counter-narrative around New York’s budgeting process. The Governor has continued to push for $2.5 billion in Medicaid cuts and creating a task force to find ways to slash funding despite the state’s overburdened hospital system.

Amid the crisis, both brothers are, intentionally or not, bringing levity to fatigued audiences. When Chris pressed his brother on the presidency question, ("Tell the audience!") Gov. Cuomo played the humble hero: "No. No." And despite the startling nature of Chris Cuomo’s diagnosis, audiences have enjoyed watching the brothers spar on national television.

The elder Cuomo called Chris "meatball" as the two traded jabs, with Chris pointing to Andrew’s "ill-fitting jacket."

The Takeaway: As the Cuomos, and other public figures, have demonstrated, COVID—if it's not done so already—will probably hit your family and friends. Hard.

Invoking family values in politics is not new. But sharing the fractures and imperfections present in every family (including brotherly rivalries) is relatable, dare we say enjoyable—to audiences cooped up with their own families and loved ones.

These unfiltered moments have the potential to go much further than staid and tired "with an abundance of caution" or "hopes and prayers" messaging.

This article is part of PRNEWS' daily COVID-19 coverage, click here to see the latest updates.