Eric Wemple, the media critic for The Washington Post, blasted CNN over its silence after anchor Chris Cuomo was accused of sexually harassing one of his former colleagues in 2005.
“CNN isn’t a quiet place. As American politics and media have gotten louder and louder, so have its hosts and commentators, whether the topic is former president Donald Trump’s threat to the country, the ravages of Fox News or the natural disaster of the week,” Wemple began a Monday piece in the Post. “Yet a hush has settled in at the network over journalist Shelley Ross’s claim that CNN host Chris Cuomo grabbed her buttock in 2005.”
Ross served as Cuomo’s boss during a stint at ABC News before she was made an executive at the network. In an op-ed in The New York Times on Friday, Ross described an incident at a going away party for a colleague when Cuomo grabbed her “buttock” in front of her husband, saying, “I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss.”
“No you can’t,” Ross responded.
After the incident, Cuomo emailed Ross an apology. “now that I think of it … I am ashamed,” the subject line said. The email continued, “though my hearty greeting was a function of being glad to see you… christian slater got arrested for a (kind of) similar act (though borne of an alleged negative intent, unlike my own) … and as a husband, I can empathize with not liking to see my wife patted as such … so pass along my apology to your very good and noble husband … and I apologize to you as well, for even putting you in such a position … next time, I will remember the lesson, no matter how happy I am to see you …”
Cuomo responded to the op-ed in a statement, saying, “As Shelley acknowledges, our interaction was not sexual in nature. It happened 16 years ago in a public setting when she was a top executive at ABC. I apologized to her then, and I meant it.”
CNN has yet to directly address the issue, however. According to Wemple, the only place that Shelley’s story has appeared on the network or in print is in CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter’s newsletter. Wemple pointed out that CNN has at least directly addressed Cuomo’s scandals before, even if its statements were curt.
CNN’s reactions to scandals surrounding Chris Cuomo over the past year reveal the network’s priorities. When it emerged, for example, that Cuomo and his family had received preferential treatment from New York state for covid tests, CNN issued this statement: “We generally do not get involved in the medical decisions of our employees. However, it is not surprising that in the earliest days of a once-in-a-century global pandemic, when Chris was showing symptoms and was concerned about possible spread, he turned to anyone he could for advice and assistance, as any human being would.”
And when it emerged that Cuomo had provided advice to his brother over the governor’s sexual harassment scandal — even participating in staff discussions on the matter, and counseling defiance — CNN issued a statement saying, in part, “it was inappropriate to engage in conversations that included members of the Governor’s staff, which Chris acknowledges. He will not participate in such conversations going forward.”
“In other words, a slight scolding for a sizable journalistic line-crossing, not to mention for offering advice that conflicted with the host’s avowed support for #MeToo principles,” Wemple concluded. “If CNN can speak up — however tepidly — about journalism ethics, can’t it offer even a token statement about sexual harassment? Surely the network would be exploding with commentary if the same claim surfaced against a host on a certain competing cable-news network.”