Chris Cuomo and Jeff Zucker Speak Out

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: Getty Images

Two days after CNN fired Chris Cuomo, the network’s former highest-rated prime-time host spoke out in detail regarding his ouster.

“The way my time ended at CNN was hard,” Cuomo said in a statement, which did not acknowledge the aid to his brother, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, that got him suspended or his own sexual-misconduct allegation that ultimately led to his firing. In the message, Cuomo said he would “take a step back and focus on what comes next,” a process that involves leaving his Sirius XM satellite radio show as well; Cuomo did not mention if he stepped back from the daytime program by his own volition or if he was forced off the air. “I will miss our conversations a great deal — but I look forward to being back in touch with you all in the future,” he concluded.

Prior to last week, Chris Cuomo’s station at CNN seemed secure: Though it was known that he aided his brother as he faced sexual-harassment and misconduct allegations, an apology and a recusal from covering the matter largely kept him in the network’s good graces. In an internal town-hall meeting in May, CNN president Jeff Zucker admitted Cuomo “made a mistake,” adding that the fact that Cuomo spoke with his brother was not a surprise. Zucker also said a suspension would be “punishment for the sake of punishing.” But after New York State Attorney General Letitia James’s office released transcripts and documents from the investigation she commissioned that showed Chris Cuomo helped dig up what he called “intel” regarding allegations against his brother, the host was suspended from the network. He was fired outright after a woman he worked with at ABC News accused him of sexual misconduct through an attorney.

On Monday, Zucker spoke out regarding the dismissal of a host that he had recruited to the network as one of his first major hires after becoming president in 2013. In audio of a morning call with staff obtained by Intelligencer, Zucker confirmed reports that he personally terminated Cuomo on Friday after outside counsel Cravath, Swaine & Moore determined that the AG report showed that Cuomo “had been much more deeply involved than we had ever known and that he had ever told us and that he had clearly violated our standards and practices,” as Zucker put it. (A Cuomo spokesperson previously told The Wall Street Journal that Zucker knew more about “the details of Mr. Cuomo’s support for his brother” than he was letting on.) “On Friday night I made the decision to terminate his contract, and on Saturday afternoon I informed Chris,” Zucker said, adding that the investigation by outside counsel into the sexual-misconduct allegation will continue.

“I fully understand that this has been a very unfortunate distraction for this organization, and I totally get it,” Zucker continued on the call. “At the same time, as I have said many times, the world is relying on us and we do need to move forward.” The network president added that there have been “absolutely no programming decisions” for the 9 p.m. hour “beyond this week,” as Michael Smerconish fills in for the next few days. He promised to describe more information at a “previously scheduled town hall” with CNN staffers on Tuesday, an unenviable task in a room full of journalists.

Chris Cuomo and Jeff Zucker Speak Out