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Watch the moment a MSNBC anchor repeated an Andrew Cuomo adviser’s ‘spin’ on harassment allegations

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Democratic strategist Lis Smith boasted to Andrew Cuomo’s political team that MSNBC anchor Katy Tur was “verbatim” repeating her “spin” on the air about the multiple harassment allegations against him in March.

According to documents released by New York state investigators, Smith texted a group of Cuomo aides on March 3, “I’m texting w/ Katy Tur … Katy is saying my spin live … Like verbatim on cnn [sic].”

Cuomo’s communications chief at the time, Peter Ajemian, texted back a heart emoji and wrote, “Spin is in emails,” while pollster Jeffrey Pollock noted Smith meant to say MSNBC. 

While it’s not clear from the text transcripts what time they were sent, Tur’s MSNBC daytime show that day covered Cuomo’s press conference where he apologized for making women “uncomfortable” but denied touching anyone inappropriately and said he wouldn’t resign. At the time, three women had come forward to accuse him of harassment and inappropriate behavior. 

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Tur then relayed a comment to her reporter guest from someone she described as “close to the family”; Smith was a spokeswoman for Cuomo’s 2018 re-election campaign.

NBC News correspondent Katy Tur moderates a panel discussion during the National Women's History Museum's event

NBC News correspondent Katy Tur moderates a panel discussion during the National Women’s History Museum’s event “The 2018 Mid-Term Elections: A Historic Time for Women” in New York City, U.S. October 3, 2018.
(Darren Ornitz/National Women’s History Museum/Handout via REUTERS)

“I’ve just been talking to somebody who is close to the family and I asked them, given the moment that we have been living in for the past two years, given how everyone has had a reckoning with this MeToo moment, why would somebody like Governor Andrew Cuomo who is a savvy politician not have buttoned things up, not have gotten the message to be careful about what he said around his staffers, around others,” Tur said. “And the person said it’s not that he didn’t think the rules didn’t apply to him, it’s just that’s in the Cuomo DNA. They are extraordinarily friendly, I guess, by nature.”

Tur didn’t appear particularly receptive to the spin, however, sounding rueful and even sighing slightly at the end of her statement, but Cuomo’s people appeared to still be glad that Smith’s language made it on the air.

Smith also discussed her exchange with Tur in her official interview in July with investigators, although she seemed to remember it slightly differently, saying Tur had commented that “friends of Andrew Cuomo say he did — that he did well, was contrite, you know, something like that.”

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Cuomo eventually resigned as more accusers came forward, and Smith was not keen on her involvement with his political operations being widely known according to the newly released documents.

Smith declined Fox News Digital’s request for comment, and Tur didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Lis Smith, Senior Advisor, Communications for Pete Buttigieg, South Bend Mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful, is seen on Buttigieg's campaign bus during a four day tour of Iowa, U.S. September 23, 2019.

Lis Smith, Senior Advisor, Communications for Pete Buttigieg, South Bend Mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful, is seen on Buttigieg’s campaign bus during a four day tour of Iowa, U.S. September 23, 2019.
(REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage)

The explosive testimony and documents surrounding the sprawling investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James into now former-Gov. Cuomo have set off a media firestorm, particularly regarding Cuomo’s embattled brother Chris Cuomo. The CNN host was heavily involved in messaging and strategy and used his media sources to look into accusers and even a reporter investigating his brother. His actions went well beyond the impression he gave to viewers as he addressed the awkward situation earlier this year about why he wouldn’t cover his brother’s “troubles.”

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Some of the texts and emails in the investigation have revealed how mainstream media members are used by operatives; one other Smith exchange refers to current CNN reporter, and then-Atlantic writer, Edward Isaac-Dovere, as possibly persuadable to write a story on Cuomo and describes him as “on our side.”

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