CNN’s Zucker: Cuomo ‘Deserved Termination’ For Using Position To Help Brother
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo and Chris Cuomo attend a screening of "RX: Early Detection A Cancer Journey With Sandra Lee" during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festiva at SVA Theatre on April 26, 2018 in New York City.
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

CNN President Jeff Zucker told staffers Tuesday that former prime-time anchor Chris Cuomo “deserved termination” after he used his position to help his brother, former New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, handle the public relations strategy when he was accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct.

In a town hall-style meeting with CNN staff Tuesday, Zucker said that Cuomo’s behavior conflicted with the network’s standards, adding that Cuomo went “too far and deserved termination,” according to a report from The Wrap. Zucker also said that he was “comfortable with the decisions that [CNN] made” in Cuomo’s firing.

CNN was originally accused of downplaying Cuomo’s role in helping his brother after The Washington Post broke the story that the CNN anchor had been giving his brother advice on how to handle the PR fallout from the sexual harassment allegations. The Daily Wire‘s Ben Johnson reported at the time:

Both CNN and the governor’s office have downplayed Chris Cuomo’s role in counseling his brother how to handle crisis communications.

“The governor only trusts about five people, so that’s why Chris is on these calls,” an adviser to the governor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Post.

CNN’s statement implied it was aware of his role as an adviser to his brother’s emergency response strategy.

“Chris has not been involved in CNN’s extensive coverage of the allegations against Governor Cuomo — on air or behind the scenes. In part because, as he has said on his show, he could never be objective. But also because he often serves as a sounding board for his brother,” the network said in a statement to the newspaper.

“However, it was inappropriate to engage in conversations that included members of the Governor’s staff, which Chris acknowledges,” the statement continued. “He will not participate in such conversations going forward.”

“The network said Cuomo will not be disciplined,” the Post reported.

Zucker defended CNN’s response at the time during the conference Tuesday. “I don’t think that there was no discipline back then,” he said, via The Wrap. “It was a reprimand, it was a public rebuke and it was a final warning that it could not happen again but I think that is a lesson we have all learned from.”

He added that Cuomo should have taken a leave of absence when the sexual harassment allegations first broke and that network executives asked him to take one, but he refused.

Zucker was also asked whether he regretted not suspending the former “Cuomo Prime Time” anchor sooner. “Hindsight in all of this is very easy,” Zucker responded, “and I do feel, as I’ve said before, and I said again this morning, this was a very unique situation and so we did allow for some leeway for Chris that, you know, was unique to that situation for somebody in that role with a brother in that role during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. So, I do think that we tried to make the right decisions at the right times.”

The Wall Street Journal further reported that Zucker said Cuomo would not be paid a severance package.

Cuomo is currently suing the network to receive the $18-20 million he is still owed from the terms of his contract with CNN.

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