Chris Cuomo, CNN’s top-rated anchor, was dismissed on Saturday, capping off a remarkable fall for the network’s most popular presenter amid an ongoing investigation into his attempts to assist his brother, Andrew M. Cuomo, then the governor of New York, in fending off sexual harassment allegations.
Debra S. Katz, a well-known employment lawyer, alerted CNN on Wednesday that she had received a complaint from a client alleging sexual misconduct against Chris Cuomo. On Saturday, Ms. Katz issued a statement in which she said that the complaint against her was made by a former junior colleague at another network and that it was “unrelated to the Governor Andrew Cuomo incident.”
What influence the claim had in CNN’s decision to fire Mr. Cuomo was not quite known at the time of publication. Ms. Katz is also the attorney representing Charlotte Bennett, a former adviser to former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who accused the former governor of sexual harassment in February.
According to Ms. Katz, Chris Cuomo said in a programme on March 1 that he has “always cared very strongly about these problems, and profoundly so.” “I simply wanted to make sure you knew.”
Earlier on Saturday, CNN said that it had “engaged a reputable legal firm to launch an investigation” into the anchor’s ties to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s political campaign. During the course of that investigation, further material came to light, according to the network. “Despite the firing, we will conduct an investigation if necessary.”
Mr. Cuomo was at the pinnacle of his broadcast journalism career as the boisterous and sometimes confrontational anchor of CNN’s 9 p.m. hour, which he had fashioned independent of his illustrious family’s political background. The issues of his brother, who resigned as governor in August, were eventually responsible for Mr. Cuomo being engaged in a dispute that looked to have precipitated his expulsion from office.
Until last month, Mr. Cuomo had the backing of CNN’s president, Jeff Zucker, and he was not subjected to any disciplinary action for his behind-the-scenes plotting with Andrew Cuomo’s political associates, which was a violation of fundamental journalistic standards.
Although the anchor gave guidance on Andrew Cuomo’s public remarks, papers published on Nov. 29 indicated that he also attempted to learn the status of pending pieces at other news sites, including The New Yorker and Politico, discussing harassment charges against his brother.
Despite his staunch support for Chris Cuomo, Mr. Zucker notified the anchor on Saturday that he had been sacked. At one time, Mr. Zucker described the anchor as “human” and stating that he was under “quite unusual circumstances.”
Many CNN journalists have privately expressed their dissatisfaction with the spectacle of a high-profile anchor advising his powerful politician brother in the midst of a scandal for years. They have also privately expressed their dissatisfaction with actions that they believe have undermined the network’s credibility. According to The New York Times, CNN anchor Jake Tapper expressed his displeasure with his colleague, saying that he had “placed us in a poor situation.” He went on to say, “I cannot envision a world in which anybody in journalism believes that was acceptable.”
Despite the fact that the network had decided earlier in the week to suspend Mr. Cuomo, the chance that he might return to the channel remained. On Wednesday, CNN’s top media reporter, Brian Stelter, suggested on air that it was “possible he’ll be back in January,” according to the network.
The network said on Tuesday that it will launch an internal investigation into Mr. Cuomo’s behaviour. However, according to a source familiar with the network’s internal decision-making process, its leadership did not intend to employ an outside legal firm right once. That strategy altered in recent days, and CNN refused to disclose the identity of the legal firm that had been contracted on Saturday morning.
Ms. Ross had previously worked as Mr. Cuomo’s boss at ABC News before the event she recounted; during the gathering, Mr. Cuomo informed her, “I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss,” she wrote. It was partly because Mr. Cuomo had “escaped accountability” for advising his brother while working as a CNN news anchor, she wrote, but it was also because of statements he made on March 1, in which he expressed “very deep concern” about the issue of sexual harassment, that she was motivated to publish her essay.