Chris Cuomo turns on ex-colleagues, including Don Lemon, in bid to win $125m CNN payout

The news anchor accused some CNN staff of a ‘calculated campaign to destroy his reputation’ over his ties to former New York governor Andrew Cuomo

Io Dodds
San Francisco
Thursday 17 March 2022 14:05
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Chris Cuomo addresses harassment allegation against brother during live CNN show

Former CNN host Chris Cuomo is demanding a $125m (£954,430) payout from the cable channel for wrongly firing him over his efforts to help his politician brother through a sexual harassment scandal.

Mr Cuomo was dismissed last year after an investigation revealed the extent of his advice and aid to his brother Andrew Cuomo, who was governor of New York state until resigning last August amid numerous allegations of sexual misconduct.

Documents and text messages released by New York's attorney general showed Mr Cuomo had used his connections in the press to help his brother's office stay ahead of an impending accusation.

But in a demand for arbitration filed with the dispute resolution firm Jams on Wednesday, Mr Cuomo's lawyers launched a series of stinging attacks on his former colleagues and bosses, including his counterpart in “bromance” Don Lemon.

The brief alleges that executives had always known about his actions, and been comfortable with them until they ignited a media firestorm. It also includes some CNN staff of a "calculated campaign to smear Cuomo and destroy his reputation".

Mr Cuomo is demanding $15m in wages for the remainder of his contract and $110m for the damage to his reputation caused by CNN’s alleged failure to rein in its other employees.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo and his brother on CNN

The lawyers wrote: "While Gov [Andrew] Cuomo was riding high as a powerful and beloved Democratic leader, CNN had no qualms about making use of the relationship between [Chris] Cuomo and Gov Cuomo...

"Cuomo fully complied with CNN’s standards and practices, including by keeping CNN executives appraised of his actions at all times.

"[CNN's] unjustifiable termination of Cuomo reflects nothing more than an apparent rush to judgment and caving to uninformed public and internal pressure that was based on speculation and assumption rather than facts and evidence."

The complaint frequently takes aim at specific CNN employees such as former chief executive Jeff Zucker, chief marketing officer Allison Gollust, news anchor Jake Tapper, and late night host Don Lemon, with whom Mr Cuomo had previously appeared very close.

The pair had long told each other “I love you” during their nightly on-air hand-offs from Mr Cuomo’s show to Mr Lemon’s, and even joined forces for a podcast called The Handoff.

“As long as CNN’s ratings would not be hurt, Zucker and Gollust were more than willing to overlook major transgressions by CNN personalities such as Don Lemon and Jake Tapper, or even to engage in blatant misconduct themselves,” Mr Cuomo’s lawyers alleged.

A spokesperson for CNN declined to comment.

Chris Cuomo first joined CNN in 2013 as the anchor of its morning show New Day, rising to host its evening news show Cuomo Prime Time.

During the early pandemic, Mr Zucker supported Mr Cuomo and publicly defended his live interviews with his brother. Mr Cuomo's complaint alleges that both men "expressed reservations" about the interviews.

Last August, Andrew Cuomo resigned as the governor of New York state after a state investigation concluded that he had harassed at least 11 women and illegally retaliated against at least one accuser. All criminal charges against him have since been dropped.

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