News and Commentary

Brian Stelter Says His ‘Phone Was Lighting Up’ Over Cuomo: ‘Staffers Saying Get Rid Of Him’
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Television journalist Chris Cuomo is seen arriving at 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert' at the Ed Sullivan Theater on May 2, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

CNN anchor Brian Stelter detailed some of the mixed feelings surrounding ousted anchor Chris Cuomo’s suspension — and subsequent termination — over new details arising from an investigation of his role in defending his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Stelter said Sunday, as he opened his weekly show “Reliable Sources,” that Cuomo’s producers and staff — as well as a number of viewers who love Cuomo — wanted the anchor to be returned to the airwaves as soon as possible. A number of other CNN staffers, however, felt that the network had given Cuomo enough leeway already and probably should have terminated him sooner.

“The biggest media story this weekend is the firing of Chris Cuomo from this network, CNN,” Stelter began. “I have been working the phones ever since this was announced yesterday evening. Frankly, I have been on the phone until the last five minutes here getting information about what happened, and where CNN goes from here. So I would like to start, now that you know the news about Cuomo’s firing, with a timeline of how it came to this point. Why was Chris Cuomo fired now, after CNN management supported him all year long? That’s the key question I have been pursuing as a media reporter for the past, you know, 18 hours or so.”

Stelter then detailed what had happened since Monday, when Attorney General Letitia James (D-N.Y.) had released a number of documents pertaining to the state’s investigation into sexual harassment and assault allegations against Andrew Cuomo — and they raised questions about just how involved Chris Cuomo had been in helping to advise and shape his brother’s defense, even to the point of using his professional contacts in an effort to get ahead of potentially damaging stories that might be coming down the pipe.

Cuomo was suspended Tuesday, pending an investigation — which CNN executed by bringing in attorneys to review the documents. The information they reviewed, possibly coupled with a credible accusation of sexual misconduct against the embattled anchor, led the network to decide that Cuomo should be terminated, effective immediately.

Stelter went on to say that inside CNN, it had felt like a bit of a balancing act. “On one side important complaints about Cuomo crossing clear journalistic lines and damaging CNN’s brand, on the other side, concerns about Cuomo the person and respect for the fact he put his family first. Some of you felt all of the above,” he said. “My phone was lighting up on Tuesday with calls from CNN staffers, some of whom said Cuomo should have been fired right away and also with emails from CNN viewers that CNN was being unfair to the ancchorman.”

“At the same time CNN boss Jeff Zucker held a meeting with the staff of Cuomo’s ‘Primetime’  show and the sentiments were there were clearly in Cuomo’s favor … Those staffers from the 9:00 p.m. show talked about the anchorman’s talent and the pride they felt in the show. So there was a real wide array of feelings in this house. You’ve got CNN staffers saying get rid of him, he shouldn’t work here, he’s hurt us. And then you have some of his own producers saying, you know, let’s bring him back. He should be back.”

It was in that environment, Stelter said, that CNN learned of the sexual misconduct accusation against Cuomo — and that was reportedly what pushed the network over the edge.