Former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo is out at CNN after being fired Saturday for his involvement with his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and his sexual misconduct issues.
CNN chief Jeff Zucker was allegedly shocked at the level of Cuomo’s involvement, which was apparently deeper than the anchor had told him. Cuomo maintains Zucker absolutely knew the facts. It’s looking like he won’t go down without a fight and I, for one, think I may root for injuries here.
But Cuomo himself is facing some deep issues. He is also facing new allegations of sexual misconduct from a junior staffer from his time at another network. This could be, as my colleague Nick Arama pointed out yesterday, the “additional information” CNN said it received which ultimately led to Cuomo’s dismissal.
But allegations like this aren’t new. An ex-boss at ABC claimed Cuomo inappropriately touched her backside at a party. It would appear that the anchor truly is cut from the same cloth as his brother.
To be absolutely fair, yes there is a presumption of innocence, no matter who the person is. But Cuomo has not helped himself at all by being so deeply entangled in his brother’s scandal. By using his position to help advise his brother on how to handle it, as well as using sources and connections to identify his brother’s accusers, he has shown himself to be someone who will try to cover up allegations like this or make them go away.
But there is another issue here, and that feeds directly into the problems at CNN: Zucker personally went out and recruited Cuomo to come to the network, vouched for him, allowed him to (unethically) interview his brother for a series of softball spots on his prime time show, and stood by him when he was initially reported to be advising his brother. If there are two allegations against Cuomo that we know of, both from a previous network, there are undoubtedly more out there, and some of which CNN had tried to deal with privately.
And we know that Zucker himself is no stranger to ignoring these kinds of issues. He spent a long time at NBC News, ignoring Matt Lauer’s predatory behavior. He has joked about it, and continues to evade questions about it.
A former NBC News employee with knowledge of Zucker’s relationship with Lauer feels the two shared a unique bond.
“They are very close friends. Jeff even did a Friars Club roast of Matt where he cracked jokes about Matt’s marital problems,” the former NBC News employee told Fox News. “At NBC, [Zucker] was the one person who could tell Matt to shut up.”
At the 2008 roast, Zucker made several lewd remarks about Lauer.
“It’s just good to see Matt up here and not under my desk,” Zucker said from the podium, according to a media executive who attended. “I don’t want to say Matt is a germophobe, but he’s the only guy I know who uses Purell both before and after he masturbates.”
When Lauer was abruptly fired by NBC for sexual misconduct nine years later, in 2017, Zucker said at Business Insider’s Ignition conference that the news was ‘incredibly disturbing” and “heartbreaking.”
If Cuomo is a serial sexual harasser, there is very little doubt that he did some of the same things at CNN, and there is definitely no chance it wasn’t “handled internally” in order to protect him. He was Zucker’s pet project and their top prime-time star. He would have been protected as much as possible to protect business and ideological interests.
Oftentimes, personalities like this are deemed “too big to fail” and will be protected. Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, and many others in the entertainment industry have been brought down by people finally speaking up. With Cuomo’s fortunes now on the decline, it is possible we’ll see the same thing happening here. The question is going to be that age-old question where scandals are concerned: What did CNN and Jeff Zucker know, and when did they know it?