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Here’s something fun. You may remember back in the dark ages of early-to-mid 2020 when Andrew Cuomo toured the late night circuit chatting it up with quote-unquote comedians eager to lavish him with praise. As I've written many times, comedy’s Cuomo hagiography was a pathetic display of servitude toward a guy whose pandemic management was at the time a grotesque failure. Still, nearly every late night host partook in some capacity, from Trevor Noah, who happily labeled himself a Cuomosexual, to Stephen Colbert, who riffed with the former governor about his nipple piercings. (Unless I missed something, the only hosts who sat out this charade were Desus & Mero and Amber Ruffin.) The worst of the lot was Jimmy Fallon, who slavered over Cuomo in a May 6th interview from his Hamptons estate:
Right out of the gate, you were there for us… I can't thank you enough. The word 'Cuomo' just makes people happy now. It's just the actual word now, it's going to be put in the dictionary. It makes people happy. I thank you. You make me sleep better at night. I look forward to hearing you talk. And thank you for being honest with us and giving us the facts, and being a true leader at this moment.
On a whim the other day I looked up that interview, from the 134th episode of the Tonight Show’s seventh season. It’s gone! That link is the same one in my March 11th, 2021 newsletter arguing that Fallon and other late night hosts should pressure Cuomo to resign. Cuomo’s other 2020 appearance on the Tonight Show—on July 13th, aggregated in the New York Post and elsewhere—has also been made “private.” If you head to the Tonight Show’s YouTube page and scroll waaaaayy down, you’ll see that this isn’t simply a case of NBC removing old videos (as appears to be the case on NBC's website): clips from episodes before and after the Cuomo ones are still there. Hell, other clips from the same episodes are still there, including the May 6th monologue and July 13th opening narration announcing Cuomo as those episodes’ guests. This indeed appears to be a targeted removal.
But that’s not all. NBC’s own Seth Meyers also gave Cuomo the buddy-buddy treatment last year, in a May 13th interview separated (as I recall) into two YouTube clips. Curiously, NBC appears to have removed one but not the other. Still online is “Governor Cuomo Shares His Thoughts on People Who Aren't Wearing Masks in Public.” Gone is the segment, described in my March newsletter and in a contemporaneous E! writeup, where Cuomo criticized Congress’s corporate bailout and fielded fluffy questions about his pseudo-sibling rivalry. Maybe it’s an oversight that one clip is still up; maybe NBC considered one embarrassing but not the other. Nobody over there responded to my inquiries.
NBC appears to be the only network to scrub its early pandemic Cuomo interviews. Cuomo’s appearances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah are still online, as are segments praising him on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and The Late Late Show with James Corden. To their credit, most of these shows (sorry, Corden) have taken evident pains to make up for their 2020 Cuomo worship, with some hosts offering semblances of contrition for their role in it. In March, Trevor Noah joked that he should "delete the tapes"; in October, Samantha Bee told Kara Swisher her team decided their audience wasn’t ready to hear anything bad about Cuomo. Yet whereas Seth Meyers devoted several critical segments toward Cuomo’s 2021 controversies as they emerged, Fallon—not uncharacteristically—waited until Cuomo resigned to offer his trademark toothlessness. “During his remarks, he said it was best that he step aside,” he said in his August 11th monologue. “And then every woman in the room took two steps aside.”
This, of course, is far from the worst thing NBC has ever done. I just find it interesting to see the detail it puts into distancing itself from controversy.
Header image via YouTube/The Tonight Show.
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