“Cuomo Prime Time” host Chris Cuomo returned to Fordham Law School on February 19 to talk with students about his career trajectory and the current state of media.
Cuomo received his law degree from Fordham in 1995. Before pursuing a career in broadcast journalism, he worked as an attorney with Fried Frank. While at Fordham, he was a finalist in the Mulligan Moot Court Competition (pictured below) and played on the Law School’s league championship-winning basketball team.
This was Cuomo’s second visit to Fordham Law in recent months. In November, he spoke with students in Fordham Law’s Democracy and the Constitution Clinic about their semester projects and how to effectively communicate about legal reform.
As a television journalist for two decades, Cuomo has covered major events like Hurricane Irma and the Paris terror attacks and co-hosted CNN’s morning show, “New Day.” Since 2018, he has interviewed politicians and newsmakers in-depth on the day’s top headlines as the anchor of his own nightly program.
Cuomo credited his Fordham Law education for providing him with an advantage in reporting. “Whether you’ve practiced [law]or not, you have a sense of ‘That’s not true, that’s not how it works, and just because you sue doesn’t mean you win,’” Cuomo explained to the packed room of students. “Because I came in with the acumen that you all will be armed with, I was better at understanding investigative situations than other people.”
Cuomo makes a point of reporting without taking sides and interviewing guests with different ideologies. He explained that he allows guests to speak their minds during “Cuomo Prime Time,” but makes sure that they don’t run away with the conversation. “It’s a balance, but the goal is fairness—just as you deal with it in the concept of justice being fair under the law,” he later added, answering first-year student Grant Emrich’s question about objective reporting. “You really try to deal with it case by case, the same way you would for class and when you do your homework. You think about what’s been said before, you listen to what’s been said before you in the class, and then you listen to the person. That’s the most important skill in interviewing. You try to check them when you can, especially if it is something that’s really gotten out there in an abusive way. I think the more narrow you can keep a political interview, the better.”
When Norris Professor of Law John D. Feerick ’61—who was dean when Cuomo was a student—asked him how he negotiates during disagreements over facts, Cuomo pointedly said, “You can’t…. There has always been argument over what’s true and what’s not true,” Cuomo continued. “So what’s the fact, what’s not the fact? I don’t think that becomes as much of the analysis as what matters and why it matters.”
Student Laura Reed ’22 also inquired about how social media has impacted journalism. He highlighted the immediacy of aggregating information on a mass scale, thanks to real-time, eyewitness accounts. However, he also pointed out that some social media users and organizations may manipulate people’s thinking in ways that may be hard to discern. “You are dealing with people finding convenient thoughts on social media—somebody, some source that gives them comfort in a position that is not necessarily correct,” Cuomo said. “You now have outlets that pose as media that really aren’t media. Their agenda-driving mechanisms are often fringe thought.”
Cuomo’s parting advice to the law students was encouraging, emphasizing the unique skills they will have acquired upon graduation. “You’re going to get knocked down a lot and you’re going to have to figure out what you do in those moments. It’s so easy to say, but so hard to do. But the more that you have dedicated yourself to something bigger than yourself, it’s easier to get back up,” he said. “If you want to be relevant when you [leave], you can be. All the rest is up to you.”