New York, NY – Pressure is building for CNN to hold accountable “Cuomo Prime Time” host Chris Cuomo, little brother of disgraced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, for giving his brother strategic advice during the sex scandal that took down his administration amidst allegations the CNN host threatened and harassed his former producers.
Chris Cuomo’s former boss at ABC News submitted an opinion column to The New York Times on Friday that included a detailed description of an incident she said occurred on June 1, 2005 when she encountered her former employee at a going-away party for a colleague.
Shelly Ross, a former executive producer with both ABC and CBS, said she hadn’t intended to air Cuomo’s dirty laundry but couldn’t stay silent anymore after the way she saw him behave during the scandal that led to his brother’s abrupt resignation in early August.
Ross said Cuomo’s appearance in a t-shirt that read “TRUTH” over Labor Day weekend put her over the edge.
“I was the executive producer of an ABC entertainment special, but I was Mr. Cuomo’s executive producer at ‘Primetime Live’ just before that,” Ross explained in her column. “I was at the party with my husband, who sat behind me on an ottoman sipping his Diet Coke as I spoke with work friends.”
“When Mr. Cuomo entered the Upper West Side bar, he walked toward me and greeted me with a strong bear hug while lowering one hand to firmly grab and squeeze the cheek of my buttock,” the veteran journalist wrote in The New York Times.
“‘I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss,’ he said to me with a kind of cocky arrogance,” Ross recalled. “‘No you can’t,’ I said, pushing him off me at the chest while stepping back, revealing my husband, who had seen the entire episode at close range. We quickly left.”
She wrote that she received an apology email from Cuomo an hour after he assaulted her that confirmed her story.
The subject line was, “now that i think of it…i am ashamed…,” according to The New York Times.
“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…,” the CNN anchor wrote in his apology email to Ross.
“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 finished the note.
Ross said she read the missive as an attempt by Cuomo “to provide himself with legal and moral coverage to evade accountability.”
“He suggested Mr. Slater had ‘negative intent’ while he, Mr. Cuomo, did not,” she wrote in The New York Times. “He seemed to have a keen understanding of what accountability might look like back then; today we have no clear idea if either he or CNN is interested in accountability.”
But she also has said she didn’t think his assault on her rear end was sexual in nature.
“Whether he understood it at the time or not, his form of sexual harassment was a hostile act meant to diminish and belittle his female former boss in front of the staff,” the veteran news produced explained in her opinion column.
CNN has not given any coverage to the Cuomo scandal although the host of “Cuomo Prime Time” issued a statement that acknowledged the 2005 incident the same day Ross’s column ran in The New York Times.
“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,” Cuomo said in a statement.
On Monday, the New York Post reported that much more recently, one of the female producers of Cuomo’s show had begged CNN boss Jeff Zucker to let her switch to another department because she felt threatened by the cocky news anchor.
Melanie Buck was suddenly replaced as executive producer of “Cuomo Prime Time” in March of 2020.
Multiple sources told the New York Post that Buck found Cuomo’s behavior toward her threatening.
“She felt threatened,” more than one source said.
A CNN insider told the New York Post that Cuomo’s then-executive producer had pleaded to be taken off Cuomo’s show but denied rumors that Buck had gotten paid to keep her mouth shut about her split with the show’s host.
“I spent two years as EP on Chris’ show and I’m proud to have led it to #1 at CNN,” Buck told the New York Post in a statement. “We ultimately had significant differences, and I asked to leave the show. I have moved on and am looking forward to my latest role with CNN+.”
Ross called for CNN to hold Cuomo accountable in her column in The New York Times, but it remained to be seen whether his network would even acknowledge the scandal flying around via other news outlets.
New York Attorney General Letitia James wrote in a report that the CNN host’s commitment to protecting the governor when he was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women had contributed to the “toxic” workplace culture in his administration, FOX News reported.