Former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was facing a sexual assault allegation at the time he was fired from the network, according to a New York Times article that adds details to previous descriptions of the accusation.
An attorney for Cuomo’s unnamed accuser released a statement in early December vaguely describing an incident of “serious sexual misconduct” involving the then-anchor, who denies wrongdoing.
The Times report, published late Tuesday, contains new details about Cuomo and the surprise resignation of CNN President Jeff Zucker in what has been a tumultuous period for the network.
The article, citing a letter the accuser’s lawyer sent to CNN in December, reported the assault took place in 2011, when the woman was a temporary employee at ABC News and Cuomo was an anchor there. She says that Cuomo had offered her career advice and invited her to lunch in his office, but that when she showed up, there was no food. Instead, Cuomo pressured her for sex and, when she refused, assaulted her, the Times reported. She hurried out of the room.
The woman later emailed Cuomo in an attempt to smooth things over because she still hoped to be offered a full-time job at the network, according to the paper.
Then, during the height of the MeToo movement, Cuomo allegedly contacted her out of the blue with an offer to air a segment on the PR firm where she was then working, the Times reported. Her attorney, Debra S. Katz, told the paper that her client “suspected he was concerned about her coming forward publicly with her allegations and wanted to use the proposed segment as an opportunity to ‘test the waters’ and discourage her from going on the record about his sexual misconduct.”
The woman was moved to hire Katz last year upon seeing Cuomo profess how seriously he takes sexual misconduct accusations around the time his brother, now-former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), was snarled in a sexual harassment scandal. An investigation into the accusations against Andrew Cuomo led to his resignation in August.
A trove of documents from the state attorney general’s investigation into the allegations agains Andrew Cuomo released in November showed that Chris Cuomo actually helped his brother get information on the governor’s accusers and tried to discredit them ― a major breach of journalism ethics.
Another woman who worked at ABC News, Shelley Ross, also came forward in September to accuse Chris Cuomo of squeezing her rear at a party in 2005.
The prime time anchor was suspended indefinitely in late November and then fired on Dec. 5, after CNN was contacted by Katz with details of the alleged 2011 assault.
Zucker resigned from his position on Feb. 2 amid mounting questions over how he handled the Cuomo brothers, according to the Times. Zucker’s resignation letter pinned his decision on his failure to disclose an affair he was having with another CNN executive, Allison Gollust. The relationship violated the company’s policy against employees supervising anyone with whom they are romantically involved, the Times noted.
Rolling Stone reported this month that Zucker and Gollust also advised Andrew Cuomo inappropriately at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The Times report indicated that the CNN investigation that initially focused on Chris Cuomo’s behavior had shifted focus to the now-former network head.
Gollust was also ousted this week. In a searing statement, she accused CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia, of trying to “retaliate against me and change the media narrative in the wake of their disastrous handling of the last two weeks.”
WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar addressed the entire mess in a letter to employees on Tuesday.
“Given the information provided to me in the investigation, I strongly believe we have taken the right actions and the right decisions have been made,” Kilar wrote.
He went on: “I am asking in this moment that we all commit to the vital mission we share and the values that define us.”