CNN fires Chris Cuomo after law firm probes involvement in brother’s harassment scandal
CNN has fired Chris Cuomo following revelations over his involvement in managing the sexual harassment scandal that forced his brother Andrew to resign as governor of New York.
The WarnerMedia-owned cable news channel announced Cuomo’s dismissal in a statement issued Saturday that noted the company had brought in an outside law firm to review the situation.
The review revealed more information that showed Cuomo crossed the line in his role in advising Andrew Cuomo over how to handle the allegations that he harassed 11 women. Andrew Cuomo resigned as governor in August.
“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 company 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.”
Cuomo, 51, was informed of his termination by CNN President Jeff Zucker, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to comment publicly.
Back from vacation, the prime-time host weighs in on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s scandal.
The termination of Cuomo, who joined CNN in 2013, ends a saga at the channel, where there was an internal struggle to rationalize the anchor’s actions, which were a clear breach of journalistic ethics.
CNN suspended Cuomo on Tuesday, a day after the release of a report from the office of New York state Atty. Gen. Letitia James showing that the journalist was deeply involved in shaping his brother’s defense against the harassment charges.
Later in the week, an outside law firm was brought in to review the 1,500 pages of testimony by Chris Cuomo and other materials, such as text messages. The probe found a significant violation of CNN’s journalistic standards that prohibit an employee from acting on behalf of a political figure or cause.
Apparently the breach went well beyond whatever Chris Cuomo had told CNN management about how he advised his brother when the matter first came before them in the spring.
There is also talk among CNN insiders that another problematic issue involving Cuomo has surfaced that may have been a factor in his termination.
The New York Times reported Saturday that a former colleague of Cuomo’s at ABC News has come forward with an allegation of sexual misconduct against the anchor. A CNN representative confirmed that it was informed about the complaint.
“Based on the report we received regarding Chris’ conduct with his brother’s defense, we had cause to terminate,” the representative said. “When new allegations came to us this week, we took them seriously, and saw no reason to delay taking immediate action.”
CNN executives have grown weary of defending Cuomo, who also got into a heated public confrontation in 2019 after a man called him Fredo, an unflattering reference to a character in “The Godfather.” Earlier this year, Shelley Ross, a former executive producer at ABC News, wrote a New York Times op-ed piece where she said Cuomo touched her inappropriately at a party when the two worked together.
After contemplating leaving while the channel is on top, the CNN president will work through his contract.
Cuomo addressed his departure in a statement posted on Twitter.
“This is not how I want my time at CNN to end but I have already told you why and how I helped my brother,” he said. “So let me 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. I owe them all and will miss that group of important people who did really important work.”
CNN now faces the challenge of rebuilding a prime-time program line-up that had been solid since Cuomo took over the 9 p.m. Eastern time slot in 2018. “Cuomo Prime Time,” where the host’s combative style was on full display, had been the most watched CNN program in recent years.
Michael Smerconish is filling Cuomo’s hour next week. The network has no immediate plans for a permanent replacement.
CNN executives stood by Cuomo when it was first revealed in May that the star was involved in staff calls with his brother as he battled the harassment accusations. After the release of James’ investigation, Andrew Cuomo resigned Aug. 10 to avoid a likely impeachment trial.
Chris Cuomo gave a deposition to the state attorney general’s office in July. According to texts in the report, Chris Cuomo firmly weighed in on the communications strategy for his brother’s response to the scandal as it unfolded earlier this year and offered to investigate at least one claim.
He is quoted as saying that he had information on a woman who accused the former governor of unwanted touching at a wedding reception. “I have a lead on the wedding girl,” he wrote in a text to the governor’s top aide, Melissa DeRosa, according to the report.
The report also says Cuomo sought to get information on a story journalist Ronan Farrow was working on about the governor for the New Yorker.
Cuomo joined CNN after stints at ABC News — which included work on “Good Morning America — and Fox News. His father, the late Mario Cuomo, also served three terms as governor of New York.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, CNN waived a long-standing policy that Chris Cuomo not report on his brother. The two appeared together on air about a dozen times as Andrew Cuomo had been become a praiseworthy figure in his aggressive communication efforts as New York was hard hit by the virus.
Inside the business of entertainment
The Wide Shot brings you news, analysis and insights on everything from streaming wars to production — and what it all means for the future.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.