CNN’s Chris Cuomo ‘contributed’ to Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment flourishing and persisting, report says

Justin Vallejo
New York
Tuesday 03 August 2021 22:12 BST
Governor Cuomo denies sexual harassment charges using a photo montage
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The involvement of CNN host Chris Cuomo in advising his brother Andrew Cuomo contributed to an environment where the governor’s sexually harassing conduct was allowed to flourish and persist, according to an investigation.

A report into claims of sexual harassment, released by New York attorney general Letitia James, found the governor’s focus on personal loyalty interfered with the Executive Chamber’s ability and responsibility to take claims of his accusers seriously.

The 165-page report found that the CNN anchor was involved in advising the governor on how to respond to the claims of sexual harassment despite having no official capacity within the government.

According to internal documents and communications obtained by investigators, Chris Cuomo counselled his brother to express contrition after the allegations from Charlotte Bennett were first published on 27 February.

After another woman came forward with allegations of groping in March, Mr Cuomo was advised not to announce plans to attend counselling.

In testimony to investigators, Chris Cuomo explained that there was discussion about remedial measures the Chamber should take but that some people advised that “they should just wait".

Investigators Joon H Kim and Anne L Clark wrote in the report that it was "revealing and consistent" that Mr Cuomo brought in advisers, who had no official role in the Executive Chamber, to deal with sexual harassment allegations.

"Nonetheless, they were regularly provided with confidential and often privileged information about state operations and helped make decisions that impacted State business and employees — all without any formal role, duty, or obligation to the State," they wrote.

Chris Cuomo’s inclusion in deliberations and the significant role of non-government individuals in decision making reflected how the governor valued loyalty and personal ties as much, or more, than those within the State government, the report said.

As they had no official position, they would not be expected to act in the interests of current or former employees, "especially if those interests did not align with the Governor’s personal interests".

"State employees who are not part of this inner circle of loyalists would rightfully believe — and did believe — that any complaint or allegation about the Governor would be handled by people whose overriding interest is in protecting the Governor," the report said.

The investigation found this reliance on confidantes regardless of whether they had an official role in State government, along with an overriding focus on loyalty and protecting the Governor, contributed to creating an environment where the Governor’s sexually harassing conduct was allowed to flourish and persist.

Other factors included the use of fear, intimidation and retribution, the acceptance of everyday flirtation and gender-based comments as just “old fashioned”, and attacking any detractors.

The report found this interfered with the Executive Chamber’s ability to respond to allegations of sexual harassment properly by taking them seriously, reporting them, and having them investigated.

"Instead, whether driven by fear or blinded by loyalty, the senior staff of the Executive Chamber (and the Governor’s select group of outside confidantes) looked to protect the Governor and found ways not to believe or credit those who stepped forward to make or support allegations against him," the report said.

CNN did not immediately respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

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