CNN has suspended its star anchor Chris Cuomo after acknowledging that he provided greater assistance to his brother Andrew over sexual misconduct allegations than he had previously admitted.
The network on Tuesday evening said that Cuomo, 51, was suspended indefinitely, with Anderson Cooper extending his hour-long show to two hours, to cover Chris’s 9pm slot.
The network’s statement said: ‘The New York attorney general’s office released transcripts and exhibits Monday that shed new light on Chris Cuomo’s involvement in his brother’s defense,’ CNN said on Tuesday.
‘The documents, which we were not privy to before their release, raise serious questions.
‘When Chris admitted to us that he had offered advice to his brother’s staff, he broke our rules and we acknowledged that publicly.
Chris Cuomo on Monday night ignored the subject of his own communications with his brother Andrew and his team earlier this year, during the then-governor’s sexual harassment scandal
‘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.’
Cooper on Tuesday night, anchoring Chris’s show, read the statement out on air.
‘Some news, now, about this network – it involved Chris Cuomo, the host of Cuomo Prime Time,’ Cooper said, before reading the prepared remarks.
He then handed over to Don Lemon – who went immediately to ‘breaking news’ of a Michigan school shooting, which happened several hours ago.
The night before, Lemon was effusive in his handover from Cuomo, saying: ‘It is good to see you, I know you had a great Thanksgiving, I hope that you did.
‘I missed you, I am grateful for your friendship and your love, I think that you are fantastic.
‘You are one of the kindest people I know on this planet, there you go, I meant every word.’
The suspension came just a day after CNN revealed it would decide Cuomo’s fate in the coming days.
CNN was referring to documents released by the New York attorney general on Monday showing text messages between Chris and his brother’s advisors as they struggled to handle allegations of sexual harassment.
Chris has admitted on air that he helped his brother as he battled the allegations, made by 12 women. Andrew, 63, resigned as governor of New York in August.
But Chris has insisted his involvement was minimal, and he was never a member of his brother’s team. The text messages released on Monday contradicted him, showing constant contact with the then-governor’s aides.
Cuomo, 51, used the opening segment of his show to discuss the new COVID variant, Omicron, and accuse the media of having over-hyped the mutant strain
Jeff Zucker, CNN’s president, was said to be close to his 9pm anchor and backed Cuomo for months, declining to discipline him even after reports showed that the anchor had participated in strategy sessions with his brother’s political team, a breach of basic journalistic conduct.
Chris Cuomo joined CNN in 2013, when Zucker hired him away from ABC News and installed him as the host of their morning show, New Day.
Chris earlier on Tuesday used his SiriusXM radio show to claim that the Democrats, Republicans and the media all turned against Andrew, making him unable to govern and forcing him to resign.
Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host, roasted Cuomo on Tuesday night, calling him ‘a massive buffoon’ who was prone to ‘barking at you for not wearing a mask’ – despite being photographed out in the Hamptons without one.
But, Carlson said, Cuomo was right to put family first.
‘It’s not a defense of Chris Cuomo or his awful, loathsome brother,’ Carlson said.
‘But when your brother is in trouble, you help your brother, period.’
Carlson, the highest-rated anchor on Fox, said Cuomo was the most-watched anchor on CNN – but noting: ‘Being the highest-rating anchor on CNN is like being the best caterer in Uzbekistan.’
Cuomo regularly vies with Anderson Cooper as the highest-rated on CNN.
The most recent data from Nielsen showed Cuomo’s 9pm ET program pulled in 684,000 total average viewers at the beginning of November – compared to 3.49 million for Fox’s Sean Hannity, and 1.92 million for MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, all on at the same time.
Carlson said CNN was bowing down to outside pressure.
‘They fired him because The Atlantic told them to?’
CNN’s media correspondent Brian Stelter on Monday seemed to preview his colleague’s fate, admitting in an article for their website that Monday’s revelations ‘cast doubt’ on a previous claim he made about his involvement in his brother’s sexual harassment scandal.
Newly-released texts from CNN host Chris Cuomo (right) reveal he helped strategize brother Andrew Cuomo’s (left) response to the sexual harassment scandal earlier this year
Stelter – writing in a piece published on CNN’s own website Monday – said his employer hadn’t realized the extent of Chris’s involvement in defending his sibling after Andrew was accused of sexual harassment.
CNN on Monday said they were reviewing the latest information revealed in a report by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
‘Monday’s revelations cast some doubt on his statement about his interactions with the press,’ Stelter wrote on Monday night, in an analysis of the situation written with his colleagues Oliver Darcy and Sonia Moghe.
Stelter and his colleagues added: ‘The documents indicated that the scope of how the anchor aimed to help his brother was more considerable and that he was more intimately involved than previously known, prompting CNN to initiate a review of the material.’
It also flagged an apparent contradiction between what Chris Cuomo previously said on air about ‘never’ making calls to the press about the Andrew sex allegations.
During testimony given to AG James, Chris admitted he had in fact done just that to try and get ahead of upcoming revelations about Andrew.
Stelter said in response: ‘Monday’s revelations cast some doubt on his statement about his interactions with the press,’ indicating that Chris’s contradiction had been picked up by his bosses.’
Stelter’s piece likely made tense reading for Cuomo, amid growing calls for the broadcaster to be fired, including from DailyMail.com columnist Meghan McCain.
CNN’s media correspondent Brian Stelter has admitted the network was caught off-guard by fresh revelations surrounding its biggest star Chris Cuomo
Pages of texts messages released by AG Letitia James shows how Chris Cuomo strategized with his brother Andrew’s office, specifically with top aide Melissa DeRosa
Pages of text exchanges between Chris Cuomo and Andrew Cuomo’s top aid Melissa DeRosa were released by the New York Attorney General’s office Monday. Investigators asked Cuomo during the investigation about a March 2021 text where he wrote to DeRosa: ‘If Ronan has nothing better – better than Boylan, that’s a great sign’
She tweeted: ‘There are good people who work at @CNN.
‘What the network is doing to so many hardworking people by continuing to employ @ChrisCuomo is nothing short of ethical malpractice.
‘He is a disgrace to journalism and a national embarrassment who tarnishes every SINGLE person at @CNN.’
On Tuesday, she said that Chris’s suspension was not enough, and he could easily return.
‘Suspension is not firing – what makes anyone believe he’s not getting the Toobin treatment and will be back on air in a few months?’ she said.
‘@CNN thinks we are stupid.’
Erik Wemple, the Washington Post’s media critic, condemned CNN on Tuesday for their handling of the saga.
‘CNN could have gotten way ahead of Monday’s news cycle,’ he wrote.
‘Just like the investigators for the attorney general, it could have pressed its employee for everything about his involvement and then published the findings, along with any appropriate disciplinary action — you know, like a real news organization.
‘Instead, the network that prizes itself on covering breaking news is months late to a story sitting right in its own office.’
Cuomo, who hosts Cuomo Prime Time on the network, was revealed on Monday to have had extensive communications with the crisis team working for his embattled brother, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo.
Chris (left) and Andrew Cuomo are pictured while Andrew was still governor
Chris, 51, helped his 63-year-old brother’s team with inside information about forthcoming articles, and suggested how to handle the media response to allegations made by 12 women of sexual harassment.
The news anchor struggled this year to know how to handle the news, which broke in the spring and culminated with Andrew’s resignation in August.
At times he refused to cover it entirely, while in other moments he defended his actions. He also apologized once it emerged that he had been helping his brother on media strategy.
On March 1, Chris said that he was aware of the accusations about his brother, after a third woman came forward to accuse him.
But he said he could not report on it.
‘Obviously I am aware of what is going on with my brother,’ he said.
‘And obviously I cannot cover it because he is my brother. Now, of course CNN has to cover it. They have covered it extensively and they will continue to do so.’
He then moved on, having thanked his audience ‘for being straight with me, and I’ve always been straight with you’.
He said he ‘always cared very deeply about these issues, and profoundly so.’
Several weeks of extremely uncomfortable handovers then ensued, as Chris refused to discuss the news – which at the time was a big story – while his co-hosts before and after discussed it extensively.
Despite having said he did not want to talk about it, when news of his assistance for his brother emerged in May, Chris apologized to viewers and colleagues.
On July 15, Chris testified before the attorney general’s team, explaining under oath the role he played.
‘How do I protect my family? How do I help protect him?’ he said during the session.
‘Probably should have been thinking more about how I protect myself, which just never occurred to me.’
When the New York attorney general’s report was published, on August 3, Chris Cuomo pointedly refused to discuss it – even while it was the lead item on his colleagues’ shows.
On August 16, shortly after Andrew resigned, Chris changed tack and addressed it again.
This time he defended his behavior, telling CNN viewers that he was not an adviser to the former governor, but rather: ‘I’m a brother.’
He added: ‘I never attacked nor encouraged anyone to attack any woman who came forward. I never made calls to the press about my brother’s situation.’
Chris’s stated intention of ignoring the story, and then being forced repeatedly to address it, has led to the anchor having a torrid year, with frequent calls for him to be fired.
In a statement to DailyMail.com on Monday evening, CNN said: ‘The thousands of pages of additional transcripts and exhibits that were released today by the NY Attorney General deserve a thorough review and consideration.
‘We will be having conversations and seeking additional clarity about their significance as they relate to CNN over the next several days.’
Stelter previously defended his colleague, telling Late Show host Stephen Colbert in August that he was concerned about the CNN anchor’s ‘odd conflict’ of interest.
Stelter is pictured in August on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Meghan McCain said that Chris Cuomo was a ‘disgrace’ to the network
‘It is an odd conflict,’ Stelter acknowledged.
‘But I don’t think – if we open up the journalism ethics book, there’s no page for this.
‘The craziest set of circumstances that you can imagine, right? A governor and a brother, both in these high-profile jobs.
‘This is definitely awkward for CNN, though.’
On Monday, Stelter was also supportive on Twitter when a journalism professor noted that Chris Cuomo failed to address the issue on his show that evening.
‘For what it’s worth, when Chris Cuomo addressed his actions on the air back in August, he said ‘this will be my final word on it,’ and he hasn’t addressed the matter on TV since,’ said Stelter.
Chris on Monday night ignored the revelations entirely.
‘I hope your Thanksgiving was a reminder for everybody of the good people, and the good things, in your life,’ he said, returning after the holiday break.
‘Lord knows we could use the help, right?’
Chris Cuomo is seen presenting his SiriusXM show. On Tuesday, when a caller during a discussion about abortion praised Andrew, he said that the media, his own party, and the Republicans had turned against him and he had no choice but to resign, as he was unable to govern
On Tuesday, Chris said that the calls for his resignation were part of a conspiracy against his family.
A caller to his SiriusXM show, during a discussion about abortion, spoke in defense of Andrew, saying that he had showed leadership during the pandemic, at a time when it was lacking.
Chris said he appreciated her remarks, and Andrew would too, but told her: ‘Don’t over-simplify things.’
He added: ‘The game has rules.
‘And one of the general principles is you can fight against the other party, and you can fight against the media, but only if you have your party.
‘Andrew had his party enforcing a rule that if you have accusations, you have problems. And you don’t really get to vet the accusations and you don’t get to go against your accusers.
‘Now I think that has pluses and minuses, and I think there’s a need for context, and I think that’s missing right now – and that’s a problem.
‘He had the Republicans hating him. He had the media, never really liked him.
‘So that is too much. And that’s why he had to resign.
Chris Cuomo added: ‘I did not want him to resign in the beginning because I believed him. And I thought that you don’t resign, you ask for due process and leave the women alone and let due process take care of the situation.’
‘But eventually, when there wasn’t going to be due process, and his party was against him, and obviously the Republicans weren’t going to help him, then he had no choice because he couldn’t do the work of the state anymore.’
The caller replied that ‘even people who wanted him to resign will admit that he was leading the country in a time of crisis.’
Chris, sighing deeply, tried to move on, saying: ‘I hear you, but it’s in the past.’