CNN has decided not to comment on an allegation against one of its hosts, Chris Cuomo, now accused of sexual harassment by a former ABC boss from 16 years ago. Critics argue that CNN stays silent on matters involving Chris Cuomo due to his show’s high ratings.
When his brother, former Governor Andrew Cuomo, resigned in disgrace due to countless sexual harassment allegations, CNN said very little. Chris Cuomo, who was on vacation during the time of his brother’s resignation, did not respond to comments either.
Friday morning, a new Op-Ed in the The New York Times detailed an encounter between Chris Cuomo and his former boss, Shelley Ross, who said that Chris once groped her buttock in her front of her husband at a work party over 16 years ago.
CNN did not immediately release a statement or comment on the incident, which prompted Shelley Ross to ask the network if it was even, “interested in accountability.”
Chris Cuomo, however, released a statement saying that he does not deny Shelley Ross’ claims, and that he apologized to her at the time of the incident.
“As Shelley acknowledges, our interaction was not sexual in nature,” Chris Cuomo said. “It happened 16 years ago in a public setting when she was a top executive at ABC. I apologized to her then, and I meant it.”
In August, after Andrew Cuomo’s resignation, Chris Cuomo’s show Cuomo Prime Time, took a massive hit in ratings, going down to just over a million viewers from his previous year-to-date average of 1.546 million.
According to The Wrap, Cuomo Prime Time was still CNN’s highest rated show, however. After the ratings were released, CNN even put out a press release boasting that the network “outperforms MSNBC,” where The Rachel Maddow Show is Cuomo’s competitor for the 9 p.m. news slot.
In an Op-Ed for The Atlantic, staff writer David A. Graham criticized the network, saying that CNN was “picking ratings over ethics.”
“Instead of pressing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for answers, the cable network had his younger sibling ask him questions,” he wrote. “America doesn’t have a hereditary aristocracy—it just has members of the same families who occupy powerful positions from generation to generation.”
“It’s a long-standing media critique that stories in New York and Washington, D.C., get attention disproportionate to stories elsewhere in the country, but that’s not the only factor at play here,” Graham continued in The Atlantic. “If they wanted to share the spotlight, perhaps Governors Jay Inslee of Washington and Mike DeWine of Ohio should have considered having brothers with plum TV gigs.”
After backlash, CNN removed Chris from any stories involving his brother, but critics still called for him to be fired. Ken Klippenstein, an investigative reporter at The Intercept, tweeted asking, “How does CNN still employ Chris Cuomo?”
Many viewers believed that Chris crossed a line by discussing the allegations with Andrew off-screen, but others argued that it was inevitable since they were family.
“There’s a wide range of opinions about this,” said Brian Stelter, anchor for CNN’s Reliable Sources. Speaking on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert after Andrew Cuomo’s resignation, he said that chatter in the office about Chris Cuomo’s tenure ranged from being “ticked off at Chris” to comments suggesting that “you can’t pick who your family members are.”
CNN President Jeff Zucker reportedly told staff during a meeting that he was “not surprised” that Chris Cuomo has conversations with his brother, adding “who wouldn’t?”
Zucker admitted, however, that he believed Chris had “made a mistake” and insisted that “there are not special rules for Chris.”