An adviser to disgraced former governor Andrew Cuomo (D., N.Y.) bragged about successfully laundering talking points through MSNBC host Katy Tur, who repeated the adviser's "spin" on the air at the height of the governor's sexual harassment scandal, according to text messages released this week.
"I’m texting w[ith] Katy Tur," the adviser, Lis Smith, wrote to a group of Cuomo aides and allies in March. "Katy is saying my spin live. Like verbatim."
Smith, who served as Cuomo's top spokeswoman during his 2018 reelection campaign, has largely avoided scrutiny for her role in the scheme to protect the governor by discrediting his female accusers. That was precisely what Smith wanted. In subsequent text exchanges, Smith told Cuomo's other advisers it would damage her "credibility" to become more visibly involved. She would later tell New York state investigators the "big fire storm" surrounding the sexual harassment scandal was "not something that I felt like I needed to be in the middle of," even as she continued to work "behind the scenes" to salvage the governor's reputation.
The text messages, released as part of New York attorney general Letitia James's investigation into Cuomo's conduct, took place following the governor's defiant press conference on March 3 after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. Cuomo denied having "touched anyone inappropriately" and vowed not to resign. Smith and her fellow advisers concurred that the story had moved in a favorable direction since the press conference.
Tur is not the only prominent journalist revealed to have played a role in Cuomo's efforts to discredit his accusers. The governor's younger brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, was also heavily involved. For example, the network star texted the governor's chief of staff, Melissa DeRosa, after obtaining a "lead" on one of his brother's accusers. CNN announced a "thorough review" of the anchor's conduct in response to the revelations. It remains to be seen if CNN considers helping a powerful relative discredit sexual harassment victims is worse than masturbating on a Zoom call.
Fun facts: Smith is the ex-lover of Eliot Spitzer, who is also a disgraced former governor of New York. Tur is the ex-lover of disgraced former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann.