CNN has indefinitely suspended its star primetime anchor Chris Cuomo after new documents revealed this week that he leaned on media sources to help unearth dirt about the foes of his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“The New York Attorney General’s office released transcripts and exhibits Monday that shed new light on Chris Cuomo’s involvements in his brother’s defense. The documents, which we were not privy to before their public release, raise serious questions,” a CNN spokesperson said in a statement on Tuesday evening.
The cable network said it would conduct a “thorough review” of the anchor’s conduct in the coming days.
“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.”
Two people familiar with the situation said that while CNN doesn’t want to prolong the matter, Chris Cuomo deserves due process and the opportunity to respond to the most recent revelations.
The people with knowledge of the situation said CNN boss Jeff Zucker had felt serious heat from infuriated talent, including Jake Tapper, over the last 24 hours and acted to yank Cuomo off the air while the review is carried out.
Another CNN insider told The Daily Beast that Cuomo had become incredibly unpopular among network staffers and fellow hosts. “I don’t know anyone who likes him,” the insider added.
“He was surviving because it didn’t make Zucker look bad. Now it is,” a senior journalist who used to work for Zucker told The Daily Beast.
Another source familiar with the matter, while expressing shock that CNN and Zucker actually punished Cuomo, remained skeptical that the host would face any long-term repercussions.
Comparing the network’s treatment of Cuomo to the hands-off approach that Fox News has taken with its inflammatory superstar Tucker Carlson, the source said Fox could somewhat justify on its end because “at least Tucker rates!”
Longtime CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who helms the network’s 8 p.m. ET hour, will take over for Cuomo’s time slot on Tuesday night. Prior to Cuomo nabbing his prime 9 p.m. ET gig, Cooper’s show ran two hours and occupied that spot.
News of the anchor’s involvement in his disgraced brother’s fight against sexual harassment allegations first surfaced in May. While Chris Cuomo delivered an on-air apology, claiming it “will never happen again” and he “knows where the line is,” Zucker merely said Cuomo was “human” and had “made a “mistake.”
The CNN primetime star drew additional scrutiny and criticism in August when it was revealed he testified to the attorney general’s office that he was involved in drafting his brother’s public statements.
After taking a well-timed vacation to go “fishing” amid calls for his firing that month, Cuomo then returned to the air following his brother’s resignation as governor. While justifying the friendly platform he provided Andrew Cuomo during the early days of the pandemic, the CNN star also defended his behind-the-scenes advisory role. And he claimed he “never misled anyone” about the way he covered his brother.
“I never attacked nor encouraged anyone to attack any woman who came forward,” he declared, before adding: “I never made calls to the press about my brother’s situation. I never influenced or attempted to control CNN’s coverage of my family.”
While CNN stood by the Cuomo Prime Time star after both the May and August revelations, letting the anchor off with a slap on the wrist in both instances, the latest documents released by the attorney general’s office showed Chris Cuomo’s role was much larger and intimate than was previously known.
“Please let me help with the prep,” he said during one March text message to his brother’s top aide Melissa DeRosa. Pleading with her and other aides to “trust me,” the veteran journalist told the then-governor’s team that “we are making mistakes we can’t afford. Chris Cuomo also demanded that they “stop hiding shit” from him.
Perhaps the most damning part of the transcripts, however, was the revelation that he was pumping media sources for dirt on his brother’s accusers. After The New York Times reported this past spring about Andrew Cuomo making unwanted advances on a woman at a wedding, Chris Cuomo assured DeRosa: “I have a lead on the wedding girl.”
Chris Cuomo also told investigators in July that he regularly checked with his journalism “sources” to look into any upcoming or recently published stories about his brother. “I would—when asked, I would reach out to sources, other journalists, to see if they had heard of anybody else coming out,” he said at the time.
Additionally, the CNN anchor admitted to investigators that he attempted to find out more information about an upcoming story by reporter Ronan Farrow. “The idea of one reporter calling another to find out about what's coming down the pipe is completely business-as-usual,” Cuomo added. defending his actions.
—additional reporting by Blake Montgomery