Chris Cuomo seeks $125 million in damages from CNN over his firing

Former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo seeks $125 million in damages from CNN over his firing.
(Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Share via

CNN host Chris Cuomo is asking for $125 million from his former employer, claiming that his Dec. 4 termination was unlawful and that his former employer’s handling of the matter damaged his reputation.

Cuomo’s attorneys filed a demand for arbitration Wednesday with the Judicial Arbitration and Mediation service, saying that CNN executives were fully aware that he was providing advice to his brother, the former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The filing also asserts that CNN executives looked the other way in other circumstances when its stars allegedly ran afoul of the company’s standards and that they failed to deter the disparaging remarks made about Cuomo by CNN on-air talent, violating the terms of his contract.

Former CNN president Jeff Zucker attends CNN Heroes at American Museum of Natural History on December 08, 2019 in New York.
An internal probe into CNN host Chris Cuomo’s actions revealed a previously undisclosed relationship between President Jeff Zucker and a subordinate.
(Mike Coppola/Getty Images for WarnerMedia)

While many of the details in the filing have been leaked to the press, the arbitration demand is the first legal action related to the scandal that led to the forced resignations of former CNN President Jeff Zucker and his longtime aide Allison Gollust.

In the investigation of Cuomo’s activities, Zucker revealed an undisclosed romantic relationship with Gollust, violating parent firm WarnerMedia’s company policy.

Cuomo, who had the most watched program on CNN in recent years, was in the hot seat for much of 2021, as reports revealed he advised his brother on how to handle sexual harassment complaints brought against him.

While CNN executives were aware of the consultations, they contended they did not know the extent of Chris Cuomo’s involvement with the former governor’s staff, revealed in a report by New York State Atty. Gen. Leticia James.

An outside law firm was brought in by CNN to review the testimony by Cuomo and other materials, such as text messages, which depict him developing strategies that included contacting journalists covering his brother’s situation.


Journalism organizations typically prohibit newsroom employees from acting on behalf of a political figure.

In the filing, Chris Cuomo asserts that Zucker and Gollust were aware of his activities. He said they exploited the family connection by waiving a long-standing condition that prohibited the journalist from interviewing or covering his brother.

When the former governor became a media darling for his assertive leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Cuomo brothers made joint appearances on “Cuomo Prime Time,” which spiked the program’s ratings.

The longest tenured Asian American journalist on network TV has some stories of her own.

March 14, 2022

The filing said the Cuomos “expressed reservations” about the appearances, but “CNN demanded through its leadership that Cuomo interview Gov. Cuomo frequently” and that Zucker and Gollust “made a concerted effort to cement and strengthen the network’s ties to Gov. Cuomo and control his media presence for CNN’s benefit.”

Andrew Cuomo’s fortunes turned when the sexual harassment allegations that drove him from office first surfaced in Dec. 2020. Chris Cuomo provided support to his brother and the filing said “he was always transparent with CNN about his role as a confidant,” adding he was not asked to curtail his efforts until May 2021 when the Washington Post first revealed his involvement.

While Cuomo apologized for the what appeared to be a journalistic ethics breach, he was not suspended, nor were his actions investigated at the time. The filing said “this is because CNN, Zucker and Gollust were fully aware of Cuomo’s assistance to Gov. Cuomo and in fact, participated and encouraged the same behavior.”


The filing said CNN’s standards and practices were “a constantly moving target” that were modified if the net effect was stronger ratings. It notes that CNN host Don Lemon faced no repercussions for text messages advising Jussie Smollett after the actor was charged with staging a homophobic and racist hate crime against himself. (Smollett was convicted and is now serving a 150-day jail sentence for lying to the police.)

The filing also cites how anchor Jake Tapper advised a Republican congressional candidate on which Pennsylvania district to run in. It also notes that legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin was allowed to return to CNN following a seven-month hiatus after having been fired by the New Yorker for exposing himself during a Zoom meeting with his colleagues at the publication.

After Zucker’s firing, many CNN personalities expressed their dismay and criticized Cuomo, who they saw as responsible for taking down their boss. Cuomo’s filing notes that their statements violated his contract, which required CNN to “make reasonable efforts to instruct its employees not to make any intentionally disparaging comments regarding [Cuomo] in the context of [Cuomo’s] business and professional activities.”

A representative for CNN had no comment on the filing.

A representative for Zucker and Gollust declined comment on the filing. They previously said that they never gave Andrew Cuomo advice and that they were never aware of the full extent that Chris Cuomo was advising his brother.