CNN fired Chris Cuomo on Saturday amid an inquiry by the network into how the prime time anchor helped defend his brother, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, against allegations of sexual harassment. The New York Times reports that Chris Cuomo was also facing an allegation of sexual misconduct by a former junior colleague, whose lawyer informed CNN of the allegation on Wednesday.
“We retained a respected law firm to conduct the review, and have terminated him, effective immediately,” CNN said in a statement on Saturday. “While in the process of that review, additional information has come to light. Despite the termination, we will investigate as appropriate.”
Per the Times, it’s not clear how much of a role the new allegation against Cuomo played in CNN’s decision to dismiss the anchor:
On Wednesday, Debra S. Katz, a prominent employment lawyer, informed CNN of a client with an allegation of sexual misconduct against Chris Cuomo. Ms. Katz said in a statement on Saturday that the allegation against the anchor, which was made by a former junior colleague at another network, was “unrelated to the Gov. Andrew Cuomo matter.” …
Asked about the new allegation, a CNN spokeswoman said in a statement on Saturday night: “Based on the report we received regarding Chris’s conduct with his brother’s defense, we had cause to terminate. When new allegations came to us this week, we took them seriously, and saw no reason to delay taking immediate action.”
A spokesperson for Chris Cuomo denied the allegation.
CNN’s internal review had been expected to look into any violations of journalistic ethics by Cuomo, but the network soon decided to hire an outside law firm to handle the investigation. According to the network’s media reporting newsletter Reliable Sources, during the review, an attorney contacted CNN on behalf of an anonymous client who alleged that she was the subject of “serious sexual misconduct” and that this allegation was the “additional information” referred to by CNN upon Cuomo’s termination on Saturday.
The network had suspended Cuomo indefinitely on November 30, the day after the New York attorney general’s office released transcripts showing that the CNN host had helped chase down “intel” on reporters looking into sexual-harassment allegations against his brother. In a statement provided by CNN, the network said the documents released on Monday “shed new light on Chris Cuomo’s involvement” in the defense of his brother, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo. “The documents, which we were not privy to before their public release, raise serious questions. When Chris admitted to us that he had offered advice to his brother’s staff, he broke our rules and we acknowledged that publicly. But we also appreciated the unique position he was in and understood his need to put family first and job second. However, these documents point to a greater level of involvement in his brother’s efforts than we previously knew. As a result, we have suspended Chris indefinitely, pending further evaluation.”
Transcripts from Attorney General Letitia James’s office showed that Chris Cuomo wrote to top gubernatorial aide Melissa DeRosa in March asking to “please let me help with the prep” as more women came forward accusing his brother of sexual misconduct. He also tried to dig up information on reports from Politico and The New Yorker prior to their publication. “I would — when asked, I would reach out to sources, other journalists, to see if they had heard of anybody else coming out,” he wrote. While it was previously known that the CNN host had helped the former governor on strategy regarding the allegations, the transcripts revealed a far greater level of involvement.
Cuomo commented on the suspension during his Sirius XM radio show. “You know this already. It hurts to even say it. It’s embarrassing, but I understand it. And I understand why some people feel the way they do about what I did,” Cuomo said, according to the New York Post.
He added, “I’ve apologized in the past. I mean it, the last thing I ever wanted to do was compromise any of my colleagues and do anything but help.”
On Saturday, Cuomo released a statement in which he called his termination “disappointing”:
Chris Cuomo is not the only outside party to face blowback for advising the governor amid the sexual misconduct scandal: In October, Alphonso David president of the Human Rights Campaign, was fired from the LGBTQ advocacy group for advising Cuomo on how to manage the crisis. In August, Tina Tchen left her role as president of the sexual assault survivor’s advocacy organization Time’s Up after it emerged that she told her team to “stand down” from backing a former aide who accused Cuomo of harassment.
This post has been updated.