CNN fired star host Chris Cuomo “immediately effectively”, days after the New York attorney general explained how the journalist helped defend his brother, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, against sexual harassment allegations.
On Saturday, CNN said: “We have retained a respected law firm to do the review and have terminated [Chris Cuomo], effective immediately. ”
“While in the process of that review, additional information came to light,” the TV network said, adding: “Despite the termination, we will continue to investigate as appropriate.”
CNN said the anchor of the “Cuomo Prime Time” program admitted that he had violated the network’s rules when he advised his brother’s staff on how to deal with the scandal. But the documents released by James’s office on Monday showed a much deeper involvement than was previously known, the network said.
In a statement, Chris Cuomo said: “This is not how I want my time at CNN to end, but I’ve already told you why and how I helped my brother.”
He praised the team that worked on “Cuomo Prime Time”. “I owe them all and will miss that special group of people who did a very important job,” he added.
The firing highlights how problematic Cuomo’s involvement in his brother’s defense was for CNN, which is owned by AT&T but is preparing for a new owner. AT&T has agreed to sell its WarnerMedia arm, which is owned by CNN as well as the HBO network, to Discovery.
After being praised for decisive action in the early days of the pandemic, support for Andrew Cuomo declined rapidly. He was forced to resign as governor of New York earlier this year after several women accused him of sexual assault.
While Chris Cuomo did not cover the news on his program, he advised his brother’s senior assistants to navigate the crisis and try to find out what competing news outlets are working on.
Cuomo joined CNN in 2013 and rose to become one of his star anchors, taking the rush-hour 21:00 slot on the network’s schedule during the turbulent Trump era. Cuomo’s conflict of interest became more acute when his brother came to national stars during the pandemic than the Democratic governor of New York, who hosted daily press conferences on the coronavirus.
CNN was criticized for blurring ethical lines on points during that time, especially after interviews between the brothers were aired in which the two brothers and sisters gossiped.
As soon as it came to light that Chris Cuomo had advised the governor on how to deal with allegations of sexual harassment, other CNN journalists expressed their discomfort with the situation.
Jake Tapper told the New York Times in May, “I can not imagine a world in which anyone in journalism thinks it was appropriate.”
The scandal comes as David Zaslav, Discovery’s CEO, prepares to run the combined Warner-Discovery company once that deal is closed.
Zaslav visited CNN’s headquarters on Tuesday for a pre-scheduled meeting with top executives, according to people familiar with the matter.
A few hours later, CNN announced that Cuomo had been suspended indefinitely.