CNN Learned of Sexual-Misconduct Allegation against Chris Cuomo before Firing: Report

CNN’s Chris Cuomo at a Democratic town hall in Los Angeles, Calif., October 10, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

CNN learned of a sexual misconduct allegation against Chris Cuomo last week, days before it fired the anchor on Saturday, according to a new report.

The network fired Cuomo for leaning on contacts in the media business to help his brother, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, navigate his sexual-harassment scandal. 

On Wednesday, prominent employment lawyer Debra Katz alerted the network to a sexual misconduct allegation brought by her client, who was a “junior colleague” to Chris Cuomo at another news network, according to the New York Times.

The allegation is not related to the sexual assault allegations that led to Andrew Cuomo’s resignation earlier this year and it is unclear what role they played in Chris Cuomo’s firing, the report notes.

“Based on the report we received regarding Chris’s conduct with his brother’s defense, we had cause to terminate,” CNN told the New York Times. “When new allegations came to us this week, we took them seriously, and saw no reason to delay taking immediate action.”

Katz, who also represented Andrew Cuomo accuser Charlotte Bennett, said her client “came forward because she was disgusted by Chris Cuomo’s on-air statements in response to the allegations made against his brother, Governor Andrew Cuomo.”

The lawyer pointed to a March 1 broadcast where Chris Cuomo said, “I have always cared very deeply about these issues, and profoundly so. I just wanted to tell you that.”

Chris Cuomo has not yet responded to the new allegation.

Earlier on Saturday he issued a statement addressing his termination from CNN.

“This is not how I want my time at CNN to end but I have already told you why and how I helped my brother,” Chris Cuomo said. “So let me now say as disappointing as this is, I could not be more proud of the team at ‘Cuomo Prime Time’ and the work we did as CNN’s #1 show in the most competitive time slot.”

On Monday, newly released documents from New York attorney general Letitia James’s office contradicted the younger Cuomo’s claims that he was “not an advisor” to his brother amid his sexual harassment scandal and that he “wasn’t in control of anything,” and that he was only involved in meetings to listen and offer his take.

However, the documents reveal that the former CNN anchor was regularly in touch with Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s former top aide, as one after another the sexual harassment allegations began to pile up, the investigation shows.

DeRosa regularly checked in with Cuomo asking whether he knew when damaging articles were expected to be published. He often responded that he would reach out to his media connections to gather more information.

The new sexual misconduct allegation would not be the first against the younger Cuomo: in September, Shelley Ross said he lowered “one hand to firmly grab and squeeze the cheek of my buttock” at a 2005 party. Ross worked with Cuomo at ABC News.

Cuomo told the New York Times the incident with Ross was not sexual and that he apologized afterwards.

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