Most people thought CNN prime-time anchor Chris Cuomo crossed the line when he tried to help his brother, then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, dodge multiple allegations of sexual harassment.
Now, apparently, Chris’ employer agrees: He went too far. Which is why CNN fired the prime-time anchor late Saturday afternoon.
In a statement, CNN said, “Chris Cuomo was suspended earlier this week pending further evaluation of new information that came to light about his involvement with his brother’s defense. We retained a respected law firm to conduct the review, and have terminated him, effective immediately. While in the process of that review, additional information has come to light. Despite the termination, we will investigate as appropriate.”
Chris Cuomo was one of CNN’s most recognizable anchors, hosting “Cuomo Prime Time” in the coveted 9 p.m. Eastern hour since 2018. But his downfall began this spring when The Washington Post reported that Chris was a part of strategy sessions as Andrew dealt with accusations that he behaved inappropriately with women.
Chris apologized to his co-workers on the air for putting them in a “bad spot,” but seemed to downplay how involved he was in his brother’s defense. Andrew ultimately resigned as governor.
Then, last week, the New York Attorney General’s office released thousands of pages of documents and transcripts about the Andrew Cuomo investigation. That shed new light on Chris’ involvement in his brother’s defense.
CNN decided to suspend Chris indefinitely while it investigated the latest information in the attorney general’s report. That investigation ended with Saturday’s stunning dismissal.
“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 in a statement on Saturday. “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. I owe them all and will miss that group of special people who did really important work.”
Had it not been for the attorney general’s report, Chris likely would have survived all this, especially because it appeared he had the support of CNN president Jeff Zucker.
But the details in the report — which included Chris Cuomo pushing to be a part of strategy sessions, working “sources” to see the status of what other news outlets were working on and even attempting to find information about one of his brother’s accusers — showed that he clearly went too far.
The Washington Post’s Jeremy Barr reported that Zucker wrote to CNN employees on Saturday, “Today, I let Chris Cuomo know that we are ending his employment at CNN. It goes without saying that these decisions are not easy, and there are a lot of complex factors involved. But as always it was important to me to be upfront with each of you.”
It’s too early to know who will replace Chris Cuomo, but it was clear Cuomo couldn’t stay. The credibility of himself and the network was too badly damaged for him to return.
Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer. For the latest media news and analysis, delivered free to your inbox each and every weekday morning, sign up for his Poynter Report newsletter.