CNN fired anchor Chris Cuomo on Saturday after details emerged about how he assisted his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as the politician faced harassment allegations earlier this year.
The network suspended Chris Cuomo earlier in the week to investigate his conduct, after New York’s attorney general released details showing he was more involved than previously known in helping to strategize and reach out to other journalists as his brother fought to keep his job.
CNN hired a law firm for the review. The firm recommended Chris Cuomo’s termination and CNN chief Jeff Zucker informed the anchor of the decision on Saturday.
The network said that “while in the process of that review, additional information has come to light.” CNN would not discuss that information, or characterize whether it had anything to do with his brother.
“It goes without saying that these decisions are not easy, and there are a lot of complex factors involved,” Zucker said in an email to CNN staff on Saturday.
Cuomo issued a statement on Twitter calling the decision disappointing.
“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. So let me now say as disappointing as this is,” he said.
Even with the firing, CNN said it will continue to investigate Cuomo’s conduct “as appropriate.”
As accusers came forward alleging former Gov. Andrew Cuomo harassed them, his brother, despite being a CNN anchor, pressed sources for information on the accusers and reported back to the governor’s staff on what he was learning.
He was active in helping craft their response to the charges, according to emails and a transcript of his testimony to investigators working for state Attorney General Letitia James. Her office found Andrew Cuomo harassed at least 11 people; the former governor resigned in August to avoid a likely impeachment trial.
Cuomo and CNN have been under fire for months about their anchor’s conduct. When it first came to light in May that the anchor had been talking to his brother’s advisers, the network acknowledged that he had broken its rules but, as CNN said in a statement upon his suspension earlier this week, “we also appreciated the unique position he was in and understood his need to put family first and job second.”
The transcripts released by James this week revealed considerable more detail about Cuomo’s involvement — details CNN admitted were a surprise even to them.
While Cuomo has said he never tried to influence CNN’s own coverage of his brother, he told investigators for James about his calls to other journalists to find out what information they had about some of his accusers.
Yet in an on-air statement Cuomo gave on CNN following his brother’s resignation in August, Cuomo said that “I never made calls to the press about my brother’s situation.”
Cuomo also said that he never attacked, nor encouraged anyone to attack any person who came forward with accusations against his brother. According to email transcripts released this week, Cuomo wrote to aides that “I have a lead” on one of the accusers, although it was not clear what he meant.
Things moved quickly this week following the release of the transcripts. CNN took him off the air on Tuesday and suspended him indefinitely, before the firing on Saturday.
There was always a potential of conflict with one Cuomo brother as governor and another as a journalist. But since Chris Cuomo debuted on CNN in 2013 after joining from ABC News, it was always made clear that he would not cover anything that involved his brother.
That changed with the COVID-19 pandemic, when the governor appeared on his brother’s show several times, trading familial banter that was entertaining but raised ethical red flags. They were then halted.