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Chris Cuomo’s wild ride: 18 months of rough headlines for CNN’s star anchor

For more than a year, CNN’s Chris Cuomo has made the sort of headlines that a veteran newsman doesn’t want to make: Ones about himself.

In an already volatile period for the left-wing anchor of “Cuomo Prime Time,” he’s in hot water again after being accused of an incident of sexual harassment by a former ABC News colleague. 

Shelley Ross, a former executive producer at ABC and CBS, wrote in the New York Times on Friday that Cuomo grabbed and squeezed her buttock at a party in 2005 without her permission. She produced an email he sent soon after the incident where he apologized but also insisted his behavior was not meant to be sexual.

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo has been mired in controversy for the past 18 months.

From his widely maligned interviews with his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to his reported breaking of his COVID-19 quarantine, to his inappropriate political advising of his brother during his harassment scandal, it’s been a wild past 18 months for CNN’s star.

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March to June 2020: Cuomo does series of interviews with his brother, then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

As the coronavirus began to spread and lock down the country, Chris Cuomo was allowed by CNN to interview his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D., about the state’s response to the deadly virus. The nine friendly interviews included playful banter about their families, inside jokes, teasing, and even prop comedy.

While praised in some media corners at the time as harmless fun when the country was stressed by the pandemic’s outset, some critics at the time called their exchanges inappropriate at best and outright unethical at worst. CNN’s Cuomo made only brief mention of Gov. Cuomo’s controversial directive that nursing homes accept COVID-positive patients, which could have led to thousands of additional deaths in the state.

Gov. Cuomo was later accused by the state of fudging the state’s nursing home death numbers to the federal government.

March 31, 2020: Cuomo announces he has COVID-19

Cuomo announced he had been diagnosed with coronavirus and would quarantine at his home.

April 14, 2020: Bicyclist files police complaint against Cuomo following intense spat

A 65-year-old East Hampton, N.Y., resident named David was riding his bike on April 12 when he spotted who he thought was the CNN anchor with two women and three children outside on undeveloped property Cuomo had recently purchased. Cuomo had been recovering from his widely publicized coronavirus diagnosis.

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David said he confronted him about breaking quarantine, leading to an intense argument between the two. Cuomo would later complain about the incident on his radio show the following day.

“I don’t want some jackass, loser, fat tire biker being able to pull over and get in my space and talk bulls— to me, I don’t want to hear it,” he said.

David filed a police report after Cuomo’s rant about him, saying he was a Democrat who supported Gov. Cuomo but didn’t like bullies.

April 21, 2020: Cuomo accused of staging re-emergence from basement

Cuomo claims to be officially leaving the basement after his lengthy stay in the basement with his illness, but the dramatic televised moment conflicts with the report that he had broken quarantine. 

“All right, here it is… the official re-entry from the basement, cleared by the CDC,” Cuomo narrated as he walked upstairs to greet his family. “This is what I’ve been dreaming of, literally, for weeks.”

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The video then showed him greeting his wife, who was also diagnosed with the virus. The anchor said she was also “cleared by the CDC” as well.

Critics lashed out at the segment, as Cuomo had already admitted to having an argument with a cyclist earlier that month.

May 20, 2020: Cuomo breaks out oversized swab during joking interview with brother

In a defining image, Chris Cuomo jokingly holds an oversized swab and mocks the size of his brother’s nose during one of their final interviews.

The moment infuriated Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean, whose in-laws both died in New York nursing homes from COVID-19. Dean became one of Gov. Cuomo’s most prominent critics over the past year, and she said the “swab” joke while people were suffering was a tipping point for her to go public.

“It was so tone deaf,” she told the Associated Press. “It was disgusting.”

Gov. Cuomo was at the time riding high, with soaring approval ratings and media adoration. Chris Cuomo even asked him if he planned to run for president, but the governor’s star would collapse amid multiple scandals over the next year.

June 2, 2020: Cuomo widely mocked after asking why protests have to be “polite and peaceful”

Cuomo blasted those who believed the national “problem” was the riots that were taking place at the time in American cities and not the police brutality that prompted the nationwide protests. The country was reeling at the time from the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis and the accompanying civic unrest.

“Now too many see the protests as the problem. No, the problem is what forced your fellow citizens to take to the streets: persistent, poisonous inequities and injustice,” Cuomo told his viewers. “And please, show me where it says protesters are supposed to be polite and peaceful. Because I can show you that outraged citizens are what made the country what she is and led to any major milestone. To be honest, this is not a tranquil time.”

He later added, “Police are the ones required to be peaceful, to deescalate, to remain calm.”

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Following the backlash he received, Cuomo attempted to claim his remarks were inspired by a famous quote from the late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, who had just died at the time, and played a clip of Lewis speaking about getting into “good trouble.”

September 2, 2020: Cuomo dismisses apparent sexual misconduct allegations to Michael Cohen in leaked audiotape

Cuomo was heard denying apparent sexual misconduct allegations on a secretly recorded audiotape amid a conversation with former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

In the audio recording obtained by “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Cuomo told the now-former personal attorney to Trump about how reporters were allegedly investigating claims that were made against him while he was an anchor for ABC News.

“You know, I’m always careful when I talk to media, you know?” Cuomo is heard saying in the audiotape.

“Right,” Cohen responded.

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“Do you know how many f—– phone calls I’ve gotten from people at ABC who say that reporters are calling and lying about things they heard about me to try to get stories about me when I was at ABC? Guys calling and saying, ‘I heard he’s the Charlie Rose of ABC, used to invite women to the hotel and open up his bathrobe.’ Do I look like the kind of f—– guy who’s gotta do that?” Cuomo continued.

September 9, 2020: Leaked audio shows Cuomo rehearsed interview with Cohen ahead of 2018 TV appearance

Cuomo appeared to go above and beyond standard interview prep in 2018 when he gave former Trump attorney Michael Cohen advice about what he should say in an appearance on the network.

In a recorded in-person conversation obtained by “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Cohen is heard telling Cuomo that his network colleague Erin Burnett urged Cohen to appear on her show first because, according to him, she said it’s “better if I do it with a woman.”

Cohen was hesitant to implicate Trump and the campaign. At the time, Cohen was being scrutinized over hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the final days before the 2016 election. In August 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts, including campaign finance violations.

At that point, Cuomo appeared to coach Cohen through a hypothetical interview.

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“You will be asked that and you can say, ‘I did it for [Donald Trump]. My relationship has always been for him. I’ve always said I don’t speak for the campaign. I speak for him as his attorney,'” Cuomo told Cohen. “And to the question of motive … the response would have to be, ‘You can speculate as to why you think I did it all day long, but the only answer is my answer and I just told you why I did it. You don’t get to speculate because if you can’t prove that I got paid back by Trump or the campaign, it is slander and defamation for you to say that I did.'”

October 26, 2020: Cuomo caught ‘hobnobbing without a mask’ after pushing masks on air: report

Cuomo was caught galivanting around New York without a protective mask in the latest setback for the “Cuomo Prime Time” namesake when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the New York Post

“Spies spotted the CNN anchor hanging at a downtown private members club, hobnobbing without a mask and acting like he was the mayor of the joint,” Post reporter Carlos Greer wrote. 

December 2020: Cuomo avoids addressing Lindsey Boylan’s sexual harassment claims against his brother

Lindsey Boylan, a former aide to Gov. Cuomo, sent political shockwaves when she took to Twitter and claimed her ex-boss “sexually harassed me for years.” While she later revealed the details of her allegations, the CNN anchor ignored the subject on-air. 

February 16, 2021: CNN announces old rule about Cuomo not interviewing his brother ‘remains in place’

On his show on Feb. 15, Cuomo skipped his brother’s mounting nursing home scandal that the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple described as a “staggering lack of transparency regarding the extent of coronavirus-related deaths in New York nursing homes.”

In what seemed to start a trend of mainstream and liberal media turning on Cuomo, Wemple ripped CNN the next day, noting “journalists can’t reliably cover their brothers.”

CNN told the Post, “The early months of the pandemic crisis were an extraordinary time. We felt that Chris speaking with his brother about the challenges of what millions of American families were struggling with was of significant human interest. As a result, we made an exception to a rule that we have had in place since 2013 which prevents Chris from interviewing and covering his brother, and that rule remains in place today. CNN has covered the news surrounding Governor Cuomo extensively.”

Wemple was withering about CNN’s statement, writing, “The CNN statement is an expression of the problem itself: You can’t nullify a rule when your star anchor’s brother is flying high, only to invoke it during times of scandal. You just can’t.”

Later that week, the Associated Press would also blast the Cuomo interviews as having aged poorly.

March 1, 2021: Cuomo says he “obviously” cannot cover sexual harassment allegations against his brother

As sexual harassment charges began to mount against Gov. Cuomo on top of his other political crises, Cuomo acknowledged the elephant in the room at the top of his show, saying he knew “what is going on” with his brother but could not cover due to his conflict of interest.

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“You’re straight with me. I’ll be straight with you,” he said. “Obviously I’m aware of what is going on with my brother. And obviously, I cannot cover it because he is my brother. Now, of course, CNN has to cover it. They have covered it extensively and they will continue to do so.”

Cuomo hit the airwaves moments after The New York Times published a report that a third woman had accused the governor of making inappropriate advances toward her at a 2019 wedding reception. 

Chris Cuomo, who was accused on Friday of sexual harassment while at ABC News in 2005, said he had always “cared very deeply about these issues, and profoundly so.”

March 25, 2021: Report published that Cuomo was among governor’s family members to receive coronavirus testing priority

Gov. Cuomo and New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker directed health officials to prioritize the governor’s own family and administration for testing in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

Family members who reportedly received preferential testing included Cuomo’s brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, as well as his mother and at least one of his sisters, the Albany Times-Union reported, citing sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

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CNN’s left-wing spokesman Matt Dornic defended the anchor benefiting from his political connection in a 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,” he said.

May 20, 2021: Washington Post reports Cuomo participated in strategy sessions with governor’s top aides on harassment accusations

The Washington Post reported Cuomo joined conference calls with top aides to the embattled governor as charges of harassment mounted and prompted calls from both sides of the aisle for his resignation. Sources told the paper that the younger Cuomo urged his brother to not step down, reportedly using the term “cancel culture” at one point.

CNN acknowledged Cuomo’s involvement but said he would not be disciplined for his conduct.

“Chris has not been involved in CNN’s extensive coverage of the allegations against Governor Cuomo – on air or behind the scenes. In part because, as he has said on his show, he could never be objective. But also because he often serves as a sounding board for his brother,” CNN said in a statement. “However, 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.”

On his show that night, Cuomo issued an apology to his colleagues. 

“If you remember I told you back at the beginning of March I can’t cover my brother’s troubles. It wouldn’t be fair. And you got it then and I appreciate you understanding,” Cuomo began his show Thursday night. “Now, today, there are stories out there about me offering my brother advice. Of course, I do. This is no revelation. I have said it publicly and I certainly have never hidden it.” 

May 25, 2021: CNN President Jeff Zucker dismisses Cuomo’s conduct as a “mistake”

Zucker told disgruntled employees at a staff meeting that Cuomo made a “mistake” when he advised his on handling multiple sexual harassment allegations. 

Zucker said while he wasn’t surprised he advised his brother, Cuomo “crossed a line” by speaking with Gov. Cuomo’s aides present. Zucker said he didn’t see the point of punishing him for his “mistake,” according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

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A CNN source confirmed the meeting’s substance to Fox News, saying “everyone is [angry].”

Two days later, anchor Jake Tapper publicly criticized Cuomo, saying he “put us in a bad spot.”

August 3, 2021: Cuomo named in state investigative report into Gov. Cuomo’s sexual harassment allegations

Cuomo was named in a state investigation as a member of a team of outside, loyal confidants to Gov. Cuomo that contributed to a culture allowing the governor’s “sexually harassing conduct” to “flourish.”

Cuomo even drafted a response for his brother to the allegations against him on Feb. 28, according to the report. That email came one day before Cuomo told CNN viewers he “obviously” couldn’t cover his brother objectively.

The report from New York Attorney General Letitia James, D., found CNN’s Cuomo and others 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.”

The report found Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women in violation of state and federal law and fostered a toxic, abusive workplace culture.

That evening, Chris Cuomo ignored the news on his show, sticking to his new policy of not covering his brother. After his nightly handoff to CNN’s Don Lemon, the latter immediately led the show with the harassment report.

August 10, 2021: Andrew Cuomo announces he will resign in two weeks

Facing the likelihood of impeachment and removal from office, Gov. Cuomo announced in a speech that he would step down in two weeks.

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“New York tough means New York loving, and I love New York and I love you,” Cuomo said. “I would never want to be unhelpful in any way, and I think given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing, and therefore, that’s what I’ll do.”

August 10, 2021: Stephen Colbert roasts CNN’s Brian Stelter over Cuomo situation

CBS late-night host Stephen Colbert is a diehard liberal, but even he couldn’t resist needling CNN’s left-wing media correspondent and de facto spokesman Brian Stelter over the awkward situation at the network.

“In a small way, your network is involved in this story because, of course, the governor’s brother Chris Cuomo has his show,” Colbert began the exchange, before pointing to the New York Times’ recent reporting about the CNN star advising the governor to resign. “Does that create any conflict over at CNN? Behind closed doors, are people mad at him? Or is he in trouble?”

“Some people are mad at him,” Stelter admitted. “By the way, I can confirm the New York Times report … I also have a source that says Chris was on the phone with his brother this week-“

“Is your source Chris Cuomo?” Colbert jokingly asked. 

“He is not, he is not,” Stelter replied. “You’ve gotta have boundaries. You’ve gotta draw lines.”

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“Why? He doesn’t,” Colbert said about the “Cuomo Prime Time” anchor. 

Stelter’s defense of his colleague’s ethical missteps led to a social media lashing as well.

August 11, 2021: Cuomo silent when confronted by Fox on his brother’s resignation

Confronted by a Fox News reporter at his boat dock, Cuomo didn’t answer several questions about his brother and the scandal. 

August 16, 2021: Cuomo addresses brother’s pending resignation in return from vacation

Cuomo returned from his “long-planned vacation” and briefly addressed the resignation of his brother.

“My brother, as you know, resigned as governor of New York and will be stepping down next week,” Cuomo somberly told his viewers. “There are a lot of people feeling a lot of hurt and a lot of pain right now. And my hope is that ultimately, everyone involved can get to a better place, that some higher good will be served in all of this.”

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“As for me, I’ve told you it’s never easy being in this business and coming from a political family, especially now. The situation is unlike anything I could have imagined. And yet, I know what matters at work and at home. Everyone knows you support your family. I know and appreciate that you get that, but you should also know I never covered my brother’s troubles because I obviously have a conflict and there are rules at CNN about that,” Cuomo said. “I said last year that his appearances on this show would be short-lived and they were. The last was over a year ago, long before any kind of scandal. I also said back then that a day would come when he would have to be held to account and I can’t do that. I said point-blank, I can’t be objective when it comes to my family, so I never reported on the scandal and when it happened, I tried to be there for my brother.”.

September 24, 2021: Cuomo is accused of sexual harassment while working at ABC News

Shelley Ross, a former ABC producer, wrote in the New York Times that Cuomo squeezed her buttock while hugging her at a party in 2005. She produced an email where Cuomo appeared to admit to the incident and apologize, although he said he had no negative or sexual intent.

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Notably, Cuomo asked her to pass along an apology to her husband before telling her he was sorry. Ross wrote that she took the message as an attempt to evade possible legal accountability in the future. She said she didn’t want him fired from CNN but did want him to use his show’s platform to report on harassment in the workplace.

In a statement published in the piece, Cuomo said, “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 failed to mention the allegations made against him on Friday’s edition of “Cuomo Prime Time.”

Fox News’ Brian Flood and Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.

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