After hours on November 30, Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN Worldwide, asked Chris Cuomo, the network’s top anchor and longtime friend, to a conference at the network’s building overlooking the Hudson River.
Allison Gollust, the network’s top marketing officer — who also seems to be Mr. Zucker’s secret love partner — joined Mr. Zucker on stage. They were tasked with conveying a sensitive message.
Mr. Zucker informed Mr. Cuomo that CNN had suspended him due to his unethical connections with his brother, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and that the suspension was effective immediately. Mr. Cuomo was taken aback and immediately offered to resign. According to those who were present during the meeting, Mr. Zucker reacted by suggesting that the anchor may be allowed to return at some time.
Mr. Cuomo had a sense of security. Mr. Zucker and him were close friends, and their fortunes were intertwined. Mr. Cuomo didn’t bother to speak with an attorney before making his decision.
A letter arrived at CNN’s headquarters in less than 24 hours. It came from a lawyer who was representing a lady who had previously worked with Mr. Cuomo at ABC News some years prior. The accuser said that he had sexually abused her and that, during the fervour surrounding the #MeToo movement, Mr. Cuomo had attempted to keep her silent by arranging a nice CNN feature about her employer at the time.
As stated in the letter, it amounted to “an abuse of authority by CNN in an effort to silence my client.”
The charges in the letter were disputed by a representative for Mr. Cuomo; nonetheless, the letter set off a sequence of events that would swiftly bring one of the world’s most prominent news organisations to its knees.
By the end of the week, Mr. Zucker had dismissed Mr. Cuomo, telling him that a constant drumbeat of scandals had become “too much for us to deal with.”
Mr. Zucker was compelled to quit after just two months on the job. Earlier this week, CNN revealed that Ms. Gollust would be departing the network as well.
CNN has dropped to third place in the ratings for cable news broadcasts. According to a senior investor, the network’s opinionated and personality-driven programming was deplorable. Mr. Zucker had a spat with a key official at CNN’s parent business before to his appointment. And he’d created formidable adversaries of Mr. Cuomo and his brother, the former governor of New York, by doing so.
Mr. Zucker’s administration of a network in which his familiarity with sources and workers had served as both a calling card and an Achilles’ heel had come under scrutiny by the time of Mr. Cuomo’s dismissal, according to the law firm hired to probe his conduct.
As a result of Mr. Zucker’s unexpected resignation, the future of CNN has been thrown into disarray, just as the network was about to launch a highly anticipated streaming service and transition to new corporate ownership.
He hopes to extort tens of millions of dollars from CNN in exchange for his services. Star anchors are causing a ruckus. It is unclear if CNN’s enormous news operations will be radically altered under the leadership of Discovery Inc., which will shortly become the network’s new owners after Mr. Zucker’s departure.
Ms. Gollust said in a press release on Tuesday evening. The fact that I am being treated in this manner as I leave CNN after spent the previous nine years defending and maintaining the highest standards of journalistic ethics is very disheartening.”
More than 30 persons who were acquainted with the recent turbulence — including the lady on whose behalf the letter to CNN was written — recounted the events and ethical transgressions that led to a leadership breakdown at “the most trusted name in journalism,” according to the letter.