CNN, which prides itself on being “the most trusted name in news,” committed the most fundamental violations of journalistic ethics in its efforts to bash President Donald Trump and portray then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) in a positive light, a new exposé in Rolling Stone states. CNN network brass engaged in a “consistent exchange of favors” with Cuomo and boasted their coverage resulted in “Cuomo-W. Trump-L.”
The article also reveals that the scandal-plagued former governor, who resigned after nearly a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment, told Jeff Zucker’s mistress that they engaged in “mutual” exchange of favors — and that he wanted to be her “pool boy.”
“The network brass’s interactions with the governor represented the worst kind of journalistic lapse,” wrote Tatiana Siegel in the article, which ran on Friday, summarizing the consensus of numerous ethicists. One of them, University of Missouri journalism professor Ryan Thomas, said CNN’s interactions with former Governor Cuomo constitute “one of the most clear-cut ethical breaches you could think of.”
At the center of the controversy is Allison Gollust, a former CNN executive whose personal relationship with Jeff Zucker cost them both their jobs at the network.
Cuomo, Gollust, and Zucker enjoy a long, symbiotic relationship going back at least a decade. Gollust had worked with Zucker at NBCUniversal until 2011. After she left the network, then-Governor Cuomo hiredGollust as his communications director from October 2012 until March 2013, when she rejoined Zucker at CNN.
When President Donald Trump threatened to quarantine New York to stop the spread of COVID-19 in March 2020, text messages obtained by Rolling Stone show that Cuomo texted Gollust, “Ask Jeff to call me plz.”
Within hours, Cuomo forcefully told Ana Cabrera that such a quarantine would cause the stock market to “drop like a stone” and decimate the U.S. economy “for months, if not years.”
After the interview, Gollust texted Cuomo, “Well done . . . Cuomo-W. Trump-L.”
She also told Cuomo, “I’m pretty sure I stopped being your publicist 8 years ago, but apparently I still am.”
A Democratic operative told the magazine that the relationship between Cuomo and Gollust involved an inappropriate level of quid pro quo. “It was clear that she leveraged the relationship … There was a consistent exchange of favors between them.” Gollust’s spokeswoman acknowledges that Gollust asked the governor to help a friend expediate the bureaucratic regulations necessary to open a business. Gollust once texted Cuomo, “I never ask you for favors, but . . .”
Cuomo replied, “Yes, u do ask me for favors, and that’s okay. It’s mutual.”
Gollust “was a key player in Cuomogate, providing talking points to the governor — for whom she worked briefly between stints with Zucker,” notes Siegel. She added that Zucker helped “foster a toxic culture at two networks” (CNN and NBC) and “fan the flames of the disinformation age along the way.”
The CEO of CNN’s current parent company, Jason Kilar, said an investigation “found violations of Company policies, including CNN’s News Standards and Practices, by Jeff Zucker, Allison Gollust, and Chris Cuomo.”
Andrew Cuomo and Allison Gollust also engaged in flirtatious texts, Rolling Stone reports:
In early 2020, several months after his split from partner Sandra Lee, Cuomo asked Gollust, “You don’t want to see me now that I’m single?” She replied, “A drink with you would be the best date I’ve had in a while.” Four months later, he fired off a text to Gollust suggesting he be her “pool boy.” She responded that she’d welcome that scenario, and they set up a call. When their texting resumed, Gollust wrote, “That was fun. Sleep well.”
Both parties deny they had any physical relationship, with Gollust’s spokeswoman calling the allegations of an affair with Andrew Cuomo “disgusting, sexist, and patently false.”
Cuomo appears to be launching a political comeback after resigning as governor of New York last August, shortly after New York Attorney General Letitia James released a 165-page report documenting that 11 women accused the governor of sexual harassment. Their allegations ranged from claiming Governor Cuomo fondled a woman’s breast under her clothes, groped multiple women’s buttocks over their clothes, or asked inappropriate questions about having sex with an older man. James’ report cited 70,000 pieces of evidence.
“I do it with everyone,” Cuomo said in his defense.