Sunday, December 5, 2021

CNN President Jeff Zucker Protected Chris Cuomo. Then Came a U-Turn (VIDEO)

Following-up, "Chris Cuomo Out at CNN: Network Terminates Prime-Time Host Amid New Revelations of Efforts to Protect His Brother (VIDEO)."


I remember reading about the allegations earlier this year.

In any case, at WSJ, "Network boss fired the star anchor on Saturday, leaving a hole in the channel’s prime-time lineup":

CNN President Jeff Zucker stood by Chris Cuomo last spring after revelations that the star anchor had helped his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, navigate a sexual-harassment scandal.

In a virtual town hall with staffers in May, he conceded that Chris Cuomo had “made a mistake,” but also said he wasn’t surprised that the anchor discussed the matter with his brother. Mr. Zucker said suspending Chris Cuomo would be “punishment for the sake of punishing.”

Everything changed this past week. New information surfaced—including detailed records from the New York attorney general’s office, a report from the law firm Cravath Swaine & Moore and an unrelated allegation of sexual misconduct—that sealed Chris Cuomo’s fate.

Mr. Zucker was taken by surprise by the attorney general’s report, and felt Mr. Cuomo misled him, according to people familiar with the situation. On Saturday he completed a U-turn, firing Mr. Cuomo on a call, one of the people said.

Mr. Cuomo has apologized for advising his brother, who was embroiled in a significant story CNN was covering. A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said in a text message on Sunday: “Mr. Cuomo has the highest level of admiration and respect for Mr. Zucker. They were widely known to be extremely close and in regular contact, including about the details of Mr. Cuomo’s support for his brother. There were no secrets about this, as other individuals besides Mr. Cuomo can attest.”

CNN said in a written statement it is disappointed with Mr. Cuomo’s characterization of events. “He has made a number of accusations that are patently false,” the network said. “This reinforces why he was terminated for violating our standards and practices, as well as his lack of candor.”

Staffers at CNN have been surprised by the network’s handling of the controversy from the beginning. When the revelations first surfaced, some employees were taken aback that there wasn’t disciplinary action, people inside the network said. After Mr. Zucker publicly defended Mr. Cuomo for months, some staffers figured the anchor would survive any fallout, and were equally surprised that Mr. Zucker reversed his position, the people said. Some on-air and behind-the-scenes staffers had said Mr. Cuomo could be back on air in January.

Mr. Zucker’s decision to fire one of CNN’s most-watched anchors creates a hole in the network’s prime-time lineup. Like every cable news channel, CNN is grappling with a viewership slump compared with last year, when the fractious 2020 presidential election and its aftermath drove ratings to new heights. The network is also in the midst of launching a streaming service, CNN+.

Mr. Zucker has been one of Chris Cuomo’s biggest champions at CNN. One of Mr. Zucker’s first moves when he arrived at CNN in 2013 was to recruit Mr. Cuomo from ABC News to co-anchor a morning news show. Mr. Zucker promoted Mr. Cuomo to prime time in 2018, giving him the coveted 9 p.m. hour and putting him against two cable-news heavyweights, Rachel Maddow at MSNBC and Sean Hannity at Fox News. A year later, Mr. Zucker praised Mr. Cuomo’s pugilistic instincts to the Hollywood Reporter, calling him “the perfect cable news anchor.”

That professional relationship eventually came under strain. Allegations that Mr. Cuomo aided his brother’s advisers came to light in May in a Washington Post article. It was a sensitive moment for CNN, whose parent company, AT and T Inc., T 1.78% had just reached a deal to merge its media assets with rival Discovery Inc. DISCB -11.57% Mr. Zucker hadn’t yet announced his eventual decision to stay on to steer the network through the merger.

As months went by, Mr. Cuomo remained on air, even after he continued to make headlines and create headaches for Mr. Zucker. In August, New York Attorney General Letitia James released a report that confirmed Mr. Cuomo had aided then-Gov. Cuomo’s response to his scandal...

Still more.