CNN‘s Chris Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment by his former ABC boss who claims he squeezed her buttock upon greeting her in a bar – before he later apologized saying he was ‘ashamed’ of his behavior.
Shelley Ross, former executive producer at ABC and CBS, penned an op ed for the New York Times detailing the alleged incident at a going-away party for an ABC colleague back in 2005.
Ross, who has spoken out in the past about being sexually harassed by serial predator Roger Ailes, said Cuomo gave her a ‘bear hug’ in the bar and grabbed and squeezed her buttock.
Cuomo, whose brother Andrew Cuomo resigned as governor of New York over a flurry of sexual harassment allegations last month, later sent her an email apologizing for his actions, she said.
The CNN anchor has not denied the allegations, telling the Times Thursday ‘it happened 16 years ago’ and ‘was not sexual in nature.’
‘As Shelley acknowledges, our interaction was not sexual in nature. It happened 16 years ago in a public setting when she was a top executive at ABC,’ he said.
‘I apologized to her then, and I meant it.’
CNN’s Chris Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment by his former ABC boss who claims he squeezed her buttock upon greeting her in a bar
Shelley Ross, former executive producer at ABC and CBS,(pictured in 2015) said the alleged incident took place at a going-away party for an ABC colleague back in 2005
At the time of the alleged incident, Ross had recently moved jobs from executive producer at ABC’s ‘Primetime Live’ – where Cuomo was an anchor – to becoming the executive producer of an ABC entertainment special.
Ross said Cuomo explained his actions away on the night as being okay because she was ‘no longer my boss.’
‘I was at the party with my husband, who sat behind me on an ottoman sipping his Diet Coke as I spoke with work friends,’ she wrote in the op ed.
‘When Mr. Cuomo entered the Upper West Side bar, he walked toward me and greeted me with a strong bear hug while lowering one hand to firmly grab and squeeze the cheek of my buttock.’
Cuomo told her ‘I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss,’ she claimed, adding that it was said ‘with a kind of cocky arrogance’.
Ross said she pushed Cuomo away from her, with her husband witnessing what had happened.
”No you can’t,’ I said, pushing him off me at the chest while stepping back, revealing my husband, who had seen the entire episode at close range. We quickly left,’ she wrote.
Ross said she received an email from Cuomo one hour later telling her she was ‘ashamed’ of his behavior.
The email, dated June 1 2005, first apologized to Ross’s ‘very good and noble husband’ for having to witness his wife ‘patted as such’ – and apologized to her second.
‘Now that I think of it… I am ashamed,’ read the subject line of the email.
Chris Cuomo is seen wearing a shirt emblazoned with the phrase ‘Truth’ during a Labor Day getaway to the Hamptons earlier this month
‘though my hearty greeting was a function of being glad to see you…,’ the email began.
Cuomo then went on to compare his actions to that of Hollywood actor Christian Slater, who one month earlier had been arrested for allegedly randomly grabbing a woman’s buttocks while she was walking through a street in Manhattan, New York City.
Slater was charged with third degree sexual abuse but the charges were later dropped.
‘Christian Slater got arrested for a (kind of) similar act (though borne of an alleged negative intent, unlike my own)…and as a husband i can empathize with not liking to see my wife patted as such…,’ the email read.
‘so pass along my apology to your very good and noble husband…and i apologize to you as well, for even putting you in such a position…
He closed out the email with: ‘next time, i will remember the lesson, no matter how happy i am to see you…’
In her op ed, Ross said she questioned whether Cuomo was ‘ashamed’ of ‘what he did, or was he embarrassed because my husband saw it?’
Andrew Cuomo left and Chris Cuomo right. The CNN anchor has come under fire for his handling of his brother’s sexual harassment scandal
She added: ‘Mr. Cuomo may say this is a sincere apology. I’ve always seen it as an attempt to provide himself with legal and moral coverage to evade accountability.’
Ross pointed to the comparison Cuomo – a former lawyer – made with Slater, saying she believes he was attempting ‘to legally differentiate the two incidents.’
She added that she did not believe his actions were ‘sexual in nature’ but rather an attempt to ‘diminish and belittle his female former boss.’
‘I never thought that Mr. Cuomo’s behavior was sexual in nature,’ she wrote.
‘Whether he understood it at the time or not, his form of sexual harassment was a hostile act meant to diminish and belittle his female former boss in front of the staff.’
Ross said she was speaking out about the incident after watching Cuomo’s handling of the sexual harassment scandal surrounding his brother.
The governor stood down in disgrace in August when a damning investigation by the New York attorney general found he had sexually harassed at least 11 women.
The allegations began surfacing in December when the first of multiple women – many of them current and former aides in the governor’s office – came forward to accuse him of sexual harassment.