CNN’s president ‘hit the roof’ when he found out about Chris Cuomo’s texts offering strategy and advice to his beleaguered brother, and is said to have suspended him because he’d previously lied about the extent of his strategizing.
Jeff Zucker, 56, who has led CNN since 2013, had long defended one of his highest-rated stars, who he is known to be close to.
But that all changed on Monday when New York Attorney Letitia James released a never-before-seen trove of texts from Chris Cuomo to his brother’s advisers briefing them on how to deal with sex pest allegations.
‘It was the straw that broke the camel’s back,’ one CNN insider told The New York Post on Wednesday.
‘Zucker loved Chris, but the e-mails and texts did it.’
Another CNN source said of Cuomo, ‘His biggest crime was he lied to Zucker. He didn’t own up to it.
Chris Cuomo (right) is seen with CNN’s president Jeff Zucker in March 2014. On Tuesday Zucker suspended Cuomo after the New York attorney general published a series of text messages that Cuomo sent to his brother’s team in the governor’s mansion
‘There’s nothing worse than an e-mail or text. It’s in writing.’
‘I don’t see how he survives this,’ a third source said of Chris Cuomo.
‘The buzz inside CNN is it’s over.’
The offending texts revealed that Chris had far more extensive input in his brother’s political machinations than he admitted.
Andrew Cuomo, the 63-year-old governor of New York, was accused of sexual harassment by 12 women, and Chris helped him with media handling. In May Chris admitted that he had been helping, but told viewers and Zucker that it was merely as a brotherly sounding board.
Andrew was forced to resign in August, and Chris was suspended on Tuesday – the day after the attorney general published the trove of documents.
Newly-released texts from CNN host Chris Cuomo (right) reveal he helped strategize brother Andrew Cuomo’s (left) response to the sexual harassment scandal earlier this year
Among the texts Cuomo sent to his brother’s aide, Melissa DeRosa, was one in which he stated: ‘Please let me help with the prep.’
On Wednesday morning, Zucker briefly brought up Chris Cuomo’s suspension during a daily news meeting with CNN staffers, The Washington Post reported.
‘I felt it was the appropriate course of action,’ Zucker said.
‘We will keep you posted on how we deal with programming going forward.’
Embattled CNN primestime host Chris Cuomo says he is ’embarrassed’ after being suspended by the network after it was revealed he provided greater assistance to his brother Andrew over sexual harassment allegations than he previously admitted
Cuomo’s suspension came as a relief to colleagues including Jake Tapper, who earlier in the year told The New York Times that Cuomo’s actions had ‘put us in a bad spot.’
Tapper is reported to be angling for Cuomo’s coveted 9pm slot, which is currently being filled by Anderson Cooper, extending his 8pm show by an hour.
The opening is also said to be keenly eyed by Brian Stelter, CNN’s media correspondent, who announced the news of Cuomo’s suspension.
Cuomo was, with Cooper, one of the highest-rated of CNN’s stars but he was massively outranked at the 9pm hour by Fox News’s Sean Hannity, who would regularly draw 3.3 million viewers to Cuomo’s 685,000.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was in second, with 1.9 million.
Cuomo, speaking publicly about his suspension for the first time on Wednesday, on his SiriusXM radio show Let’s Get After It, said that he understands why people believe he violated journalism ethics.
‘Quick note about the obvious,’ Cuomo told his listeners at the top of the program.
‘I’ve been suspended from CNN.’
After asking his producer to ‘cut the music,’ the broadcaster launched into a monologue addressing his professional woes.
‘You know this already. It hurts to even say it, it’s embarrassing, but I understand it and I understand why some people feel the way they do about what I did.
‘I’ve apologized in the past and I mean it, it’s the last thing I ever wanted to do was compromise any of my colleagues and do anything but help.
Chris was photographed on Thanksgiving outside his Amagansett, New York, home. His older brother, Andrew, shared a photo with his three daughters and elderly mother
Tucker Carlson brands Chris Cuomo an illiterate ‘buffoon’ as star is suspended by CNN
Tucker Carlson on Tuesday night called Chris Cuomo ‘illiterate’, and ‘an idiot’, but said he was right to defend his ‘loathsome’ brother, because he was family
Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson described CNN’s Chris Cuomo as ‘illiterate’ and a ‘buffoon’ on Tuesday night – but accused the network of bowing to pressure with their decision to suspend him.
CNN at around 5pm on Tuesday announced they had suspended star anchor Chris Cuomo after acknowledging that he provided greater assistance to his brother Andrew over sexual misconduct allegations than he had previously admitted.
Carlson was gleeful about the demise of one of CNN’s biggest stars, and spent 15 minutes on the topic.
‘Like most Americans, we never actually watched The Chris Cuomo Show – assuming that’s was its name,’ the 52-year-old said.
‘But we saw clips and it transfixed us.
‘How, we wondered, how could a man who could barely speak English wind up with a paying job on television?
‘Some kind of weird affirmative action program for the illiterate?
‘We never figured it out. It was remarkable to see it.
‘Sentence after badly mangled sentence, a bouillabaisse of incomprehensible grammar – we couldn’t understand any of it.
‘It was a kind of performance art: a communicator wholly unable to communicate.’
He mocked Cuomo for his weightlifting obsession, and for being caught multiple times without a face mask, indoors and out – despite repeatedly stressing on air the importance of wearing one.
‘Chris Cuomo was a buffoon,’ Carlson said.
‘He was also, in the way that buffoons tend to be, incredibly self-righteous and false.’
He called Jeff Zucker, CNN’s president, a ‘dwarf’, and mocked media correspondent Brian Stelter – who broke the news – as a ‘eunuch’.
But, Carlson said, he was sad that Cuomo was forced out for defending his brother.
He said that CNN had bowed to pressure from liberal media, noting that The Atlantic on Tuesday morning published an article calling for Cuomo to be fired. Carlson said that The Atlantic sealed Cuomo’s fate.
Carlson called Andrew Cuomo ‘loathsome’, but said Chris was right to defend him.
‘Your most basic obligation is to the people you are related to,’ said Carlson.
‘When they need your help – no matter who they are, even if you’re the governor of a state, even if they are horrible people – you help them anyway because it’s your family.
‘Chris Cuomo may be an idiot – and he is – but he understands that.
‘What a thing to be fired for.’
‘I know they have a process that they think is important and I respect that process so I’m not going to talk about this anymore than that.
‘So right now let’s get after it and there is plenty to do.’
Meanwhile, Stelter, floated the prospect that the sidelined host of Cuomo Prime Time could be back in the anchor’s chair as early as January because his viewers are ‘ticked off’ that he’s off the air.
‘Cuomo is on the bench for now,’ Stelter told CNN’s New Day host John Berman.
‘We’re heading into a holiday season. I think it’s possible he will be on the bench for several weeks.
‘It’s possible he’ll be back in January.’
Variety reported that Cuomo had been CNN’s most-watched anchor – but still far behind his competitors.
Despite the speculations about Cuomo’s future, a CNN spokesperson reiterated on Wednesday that his suspension was ‘indefinite’ with ‘no end date’ pending the conclusion of an internal review.
It has been reported by The Daily Beast that Cuomo had drawn the ire of his colleagues, including fellow anchor Jake Tapper, and was left with few allies on staff.
‘I don’t know anyone who likes him,’ an unnamed source was quoted as saying of Chris.
CNN’s Stelter and Oliver Darcy reported that network staff ‘expressed dismay’ about Chris’s conduct.
The network on Tuesday evening said: ‘The New York attorney general’s office released transcripts and exhibits Monday that shed new light on Chris Cuomo’s involvement in his brother’s defense.
‘The documents, which we were not privy to before their release, raise serious questions.
‘When Chris admitted to us that he had offered advice to his brother’s staff, he broke our rules and we acknowledged that publicly.
‘But we also appreciated the unique position he was in and understood his need to put family first, and job second.
‘However these documents point to a greater level of involvement in his brother’s efforts than we previously knew.
‘As a result we have suspended Chris indefinitely, pending further evaluation.’
Cooper on Tuesday night, anchoring Chris’s show, read the statement out on air.
‘Some news, now, about this network – it involved Chris Cuomo, the host of Cuomo Prime Time,’ Cooper said, before reading the prepared remarks.
He then handed over to Don Lemon – who went immediately to ‘breaking news’ of a Michigan school shooting, which happened several hours ago.
The night before, Lemon was effusive in his handover from Cuomo, saying: ‘It is good to see you, I know you had a great Thanksgiving, I hope that you did.
‘I missed you, I am grateful for your friendship and your love, I think that you are fantastic.
‘You are one of the kindest people I know on this planet, there you go, I meant every word.’
The suspension came just a day after CNN revealed it would decide Cuomo’s fate in the coming days.
Chris has admitted on air that he helped his brother as he battled the allegations, made by 12 women.
But Chris has insisted his involvement was minimal, and he was never a member of his brother’s team.
The text messages released on Monday contradicted his earlier statements, showing constant contact with the then-governor’s aides.
Cuomo joined CNN as a field anchor in February 2013 following stints at ABC and Fox News.
After rising through the ranks, he was tapped in March 2018 to host Cuomo Prime Time.