In Chris Cuomo’s latest scandal, former ABC boss accuses CNN host of sexual harassment
CNN host Chris Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment by a former superior during his stint at ABC and she’s calling on him to “journalistically repent” on air.
It’s the latest scandal swirling around the “Cuomo Prime Time” host, who was criticized in recent months for advising his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to fight his own sexual harassment allegations. The TV host ended up avoiding retribution at the cable news network for his involvement in the scandal.
For the record:
2:23 p.m. Sept. 24, 2021A previous version of this story said “The Early Show” aired on ABC. It aired on CBS.
In a guest column published Friday in the New York Times, veteran TV journalist Shelley Ross wrote that Cuomo’s on-air statements of profound concern about sexual harassment provoked her to share her story: She alleged that Cuomo sexually harassed her at a New York City bar in 2005 during a going-away party for an ABC colleague.
“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,” Ross wrote in the column, quoting Cuomo as allegedly saying, “I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss.”
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Ross said she replied “No you can’t” and pushed him off of her at the chest while stepping back. She said her husband, who was also at the party, saw the entire episode at close range.
At the time, Ross was an executive producer for an ABC entertainment special and just before that had been the executive producer of “Primetime Live,” where Cuomo was one of several anchors..
Ross said that she and her husband quickly left the bar, and Cuomo emailed her an apology an hour after the incident. She provided the newspaper with a picture of the correspondence dated June 1, 2005, with the subject line “now that i think of it … i am ashamed.” In it, Cuomo apologized to her “very good and noble husband” and then to her for putting her in “such a position.”
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Although Ross never thought Cuomo’s behavior was sexual in nature, she wrote, “His form of sexual harassment was a hostile act meant to diminish and belittle his female former boss in front of the staff.”
In a statement provided to The Times by CNN, Cuomo, 51, said: “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.”
But in her column, Ross questioned whether the lawyer turned TV personality was ashamed of what he did or just embarrassed because her husband saw it. She also questioned Cuomo’s on-air proclamations about caring “very deeply about these issues” involving sexual harassment and seeking truth.
“Mr. Cuomo may say this is a sincere apology. I’ve always seen it as an attempt to provide himself with legal and moral coverage to evade accountability,” she wrote.
People who were once allied with him, and even the entire practice of journalism, suffer in his implosion.
Ross, who was ousted from CBS’ “The Early Show” in 2008 after her leadership came under attack in what she considered a toxic work culture, said she has fought sexual harassment in the workplace for 40 years.
She said she isn’t asking for Cuomo “to become the next casualty in this continuing terrible story” but to “journalistically repent” by agreeing on air “to study the impact of sexism, harassment and gender bias in the workplace, including his own, and then report on it.”
Cuomo, whose nightly program has the largest audience on CNN, has previously delivered on-air apologies when his personal life has made headlines. It is unclear whether Cuomo will address Ross’ New York Times op-ed on his next live show, which is scheduled for Monday.
Times staff writer Christie D’Zurilla contributed to this report.
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