CNN fired its star anchor Chris Cuomo after learning of a sexual misconduct allegation made against him by a colleague from his time at ABC News, it was claimed.
The unnamed woman’s lawyer, Debra Katz, went to CNN executives on Wednesday – the day after Cuomo was ‘suspended indefinitely’ by the network for giving his brother Andrew’s team far more extensive assistance than he had admitted.
An insider told the Post it was that woman’s claims – which haven’t been detailed – that ultimately led CNN to ax its $6 million-a-year star.
The source explained: ‘From a legal standpoint, CNN had cause to fire Chris on Friday based on the Letitia James information,’ the source said.
‘From a practical standpoint, when the sexual-misconduct claim came in, CNN decided, ‘Enough is enough.”
Chris Cuomo is seen in 2011, when he worked as a news reporter at ABC News
The New York Times first reported the allegations Saturday, but was unable to confirm if they’d led to Cuomo’s ouster.
No further information on the woman’s identity has been given, although she is said to have been Cuomo’s junior at the time of the alleged attack. He is said to have worked out her identity based on the details made in the claims.
CNN did not mention sexual misconduct allegations when they confirmed on Saturday that he was fired. Chris’s brother Andrew was forced to resign as Governor of New York in August after being accused of sexually harassing or assaulting 12 different women, although he denies the allegations.
‘Chris Cuomo was suspended earlier this week pending further evaluation of new information that came to light about his involvement with his brother’s defense,’ the network said.
‘We retained a respected law firm to conduct the review, and have terminated him, effective immediately.
‘While in the process of that review, additional information has come to light. Despite the termination, we will investigate as appropriate.’
On Sunday, The New York Post reported that the woman who made the accusations worked with Cuomo at ABC News – the network he joined in 2006, as a Good Morning America news anchor.
Cuomo is seen during his time at ABC, where he worked on Good Morning America
Cuomo, seen in October 2018, has been ‘terminated’ by CNN ‘effective immediately,’ the network announced in a statement Saturday
Newly-released texts from CNN host Chris Cuomo (right) reveal he helped strategize brother Andrew Cuomo’s (left) response to the sexual harassment scandal earlier this year
In an announcement released Saturday afternoon, the network revealed that more information had come to light during its internal investigation into the anchor – which is still ongoing
He has not been formally told the accuser’s name but is believed to have figured it out based on information in a letter her lawyer sent to CNN last week.
She was described only as ‘a former junior colleague at another network’ when The New York Times on Saturday reported about his firing, and the sexual misconduct allegation.
Shelley Ross, who worked with Chris Cuomo at ABC News, accused him of grabbing her buttocks at a bar, in 2005. She said that CNN’s internal investigation into his help for his brother was insufficient
A source told The Post that the publication on Monday of Cuomo’s text messages to his brother Andrew’s team, in documents made public by the New York attorney general, Letitia James, was enough to fire him.
But the allegations on Wednesday of sexual misconduct also contributed.
In September, a former producer at ABC News, Shelley Ross, wrote an op ed about Cuomo’s behavior on CNN and his interactions with his brother’s team, and revealed that in 2005 he had grabbed her buttocks in a bar at a party.
In a New York Times essay entitled ‘Chris Cuomo Sexually Harassed Me. I Hope He’ll Use His Power to Make Change’, she described his actions on the night.
‘When Mr. Cuomo entered the Upper West Side bar, he walked toward me and greeted me with a strong bear hug while lowering one hand to firmly grab and squeeze the cheek of my buttock.
‘“I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss,” he said to me with a kind of cocky arrogance.
‘“No you can’t,” I said, pushing him off me at the chest while stepping back, revealing my husband, who had seen the entire episode at close range. We quickly left.
‘Soon after, I received the email from Mr. Cuomo about being “ashamed.” He should have been,’ she wrote.
In response to the September op ed, he admitted he had behaved inappropriately, saying in a statement: ‘As Shelley acknowledges, our interaction was not sexual in nature. It happened 16 years ago in a public setting when she was a top executive at ABC. I apologized to her then, and I meant it.’
It was unclear whether Katz’s client was Ross, but given that she was his boss, and the accuser was described by The New York Times on Saturday as ‘a former junior colleague’, it would appear unlikely.
Katz is also representing Charlotte Bennett, who accused Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment – one of 12 women to do so, who forced the 63-year-old to resign as governor of New York in August.
‘By Friday, I was in discussions with CNN about providing documentary evidence of my client’s allegations and making my client available for an interview with CNN’s outside counsel,’ she said.
Katz has reportedly told CNN she will identify the woman and let her be interviewed by the company’s lawyers only after the network agrees to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
The lawyers are preparing to interview the woman this week, CNN insiders said.
Cuomo’s spokesman denied the claim, saying: ‘These apparently anonymous allegations are not true.’
Ross said on Friday that CNN’s original internal investigation was insufficient.
‘Only an outside team of professionals can stop malicious, neglectful, or consciously wrong behavior by those who engage in it or enable it,’ she told Fox News Digital.
On Sunday, CNN’s media correspondent Brian Stelter reported that the matter is now being handled by the white-shoe law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore.
Chris Cuomo was suspended by CNN on Tuesday, after it emerged that he had not been transparent with his bosses and viewers about how much assistance he had given his brother, Andrew. On Saturday he was fired
Cuomo, 51, issued acknowledging his axing Saturday in a public statement expressing regret in his part of the scandal – but asserted that he was only helping his brother, who was forced to resign in August due to the allegations
Ross spoke as the first ratings from Cuomo’s 9pm ET slot were published – showing that his fill-in, Anderson Cooper, attracted more viewers when he hosted Cuomo’s show.
The total number of viewers for Cuomo Prime Time spiked to 897,000 on Tuesday night – the first night without its official host – according to Nielsen TV ratings data posted online by AdWeek’s TVNewser website.
That figure was up nearly 19 percent from Monday, when Cuomo attracted just 754,000 viewers.
It also exceed his show’s average of 774,000 viewers during November, when it ranked No. 25 among all cable TV news programs – right behind Cooper’s.
The highest-rated 9pm anchor was Fox News’s Sean Hannity, who drew 3.4 million viewers on average. Rachel Maddow was second for MSNBC, with 1.9 million.
Chris Cuomo on Monday night ignored the subject of his own communications with his brother Andrew and his team earlier this year, during the then-governor’s sexual harassment scandal
Pages of text exchanges between Chris Cuomo and Andrew Cuomo’s top aid Melissa DeRosa were released by the New York Attorney General’s office Monday, showing a high level of involvement in Andrew’s defense
Melissa DeRosa, former secretary to the governor, exchanged dozens of messages with Chris Cuomo as her boss’s sexual harassment scandal was unfolding
Andrew Cuomo is seen in July testifying before the Attorney General’s investigative team
Cuomo responded on Saturday to his termination, saying he was disappointed in the network’s action but remained proud of his team.
‘This is not how I want my time at CNN to end,’ Cuomo tweeted Saturday evening. ‘But, I have already told you why and how I helped my brother.’
‘So let me now say as disappointing as this is, I could not be more proud of the team at Cuomo Prime Time and the work we did as CNN’s #1 show in the most competitive time slot.’
Cuomo said he owes his team and ‘will miss that group of special people who did really important work’ as he also fights off a historic sexual misconduct claim.
Cuomo joined CNN as a field anchor in February 2013 following stints at ABC and Fox News. After rising through the ranks, he was tapped in March 2018 to host Cuomo Prime Time.
According to some estimates, Cuomo had an annual salary of $6 million.
His 9pm show, Cuomo Prime Time, was CNN’s highest rated broadcast. It drew an average of 774,000 viewers during November, when it ranked No. 25 among all cable TV news programs – right behind Anderson Cooper’s show.
However, the network saw a 19 percent bump after Cuomo was suspended Tuesday and Cooper filled in. The network has not indicated who will be his permanent replacement.
On the day his brother resigned, August 24, Cuomo told viewers of his popular program, Cuomo Prime Time, that the scandal and ensuing situation was ‘unlike anything I could have imagined.’
On the air, Cuomo attested that he never reported on the sexual harassment scandal or tried to interfere in CNN’s coverage of the story.
Instead, the anchor asserted that he had ‘tried to be there for my brother’ – and nothing more.
‘I’m not an adviser. I’m a brother. I wasn’t in control of anything. I was there to listen and offer my take,’ he said at the time.
According to testimony given by Cuomo to James’ office, the last time the anchor spoke to his elder brother about the charges was to figure out what was going to happen and what he would tell their 90-year-old mother.
Cuomo has insisted he has done nothing to try and influence CNN’s coverage of his brother’s political problems, and that it would be quickly found out if he did.
Throughout his testimony, Chris frequently invoked family when asked to explain his frequent contact – often combative – with Andrew’s aides as they tried to figure out a way to save the governor’s job.
‘This is my brother, and I’m trying to help my brother through a situation where he has told me he did nothing wrong,’ Chris testified.
‘And that’s it for me. How do I help protect my family? How do I protect him?
‘Probably should have been thinking more about how I protect myself, which just never occurred to me.’
At the request of his brother’s aides, Cuomo also used his contacts to find out what other journalists were going to report, most notably the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow.
At the request of his Andrew Cuomo’s (pictured) aides, Cuomo also used his contacts to find out what other journalists were going to report
Cuomo argued ‘the idea of one reporter calling another to find out what’s coming down the pipe is completely business as usual.’
Cuomo testified that he didn’t tell anyone at CNN that he was contacting other journalists to find out about the Farrow piece.
On March 1, Chris said on air that he was aware of the accusations about his brother, after a third woman came forward to accuse him.
But he said he could not report on it.
‘Obviously I am aware of what is going on with my brother,’ he said.
‘And obviously I cannot cover it because he is my brother. Now, of course CNN has to cover it. They have covered it extensively and they will continue to do so.’
He then moved on, having thanked his audience ‘for being straight with me, and I’ve always been straight with you’.
He said he ‘always cared very deeply about these issues, and profoundly so.’
Several weeks of extremely uncomfortable handovers then ensued, as Chris refused to discuss the news – which at the time was a big story – while his co-hosts before and after discussed it extensively.
When it was first reported by The Washington Post last May that Cuomo had strategized with his brother’s aides, CNN said that it was inappropriate but did not discipline him.
‘When Chris admitted to us that he had offered advice to his brother’s staff, he broke our rules and we acknowledged that publicly,’ a CNN spokesperson said on Tuesday.
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