CNN has suspended Chris Cuomo indefinitely after details emerged about how he helped his brother, the former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, as he faced accusations of sexual harassment.
Questions have hovered over the CNN anchor’s future since the release of documents by New York’s attorney general on Monday indicated a greater involvement in his brother’s efforts than the network previously knew.
The new evidence showed that the primetime host used media contacts to glean information about women accusing his brother, the then New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, of sexual harassment – then sought to make his sibling aware of forthcoming coverage.
The network said on Tuesday: “We have suspended Chris indefinitely, pending further evaluation” as a result of the new details.
Cuomo is one of the network’s most visible faces and Cuomo Prime Time, the daily show he anchors, is often CNN’s most-watched show of the day.
The CNN anchor had pressed sources for information on his brother’s accusers and reported back to the governor’s staff, and he was active in helping craft their response to the charges, according to emails and a transcript of his testimony to investigators working for the New York attorney general, Letitia James.
Chris Cuomo had previously acknowledged talking to his brother and offering advice when the governor faced the harassment charges that led to his resignation. But the information released on 29 November revealed far more details about what he did.
Andrew Cuomo resigned in August to avoid a likely impeachment trial, after an investigation led by James found he sexually harassed at least 11 women.
Monday’s releases show Chris Cuomo growing frustrated with his brother’s advisers as they scrambled to respond as more women came forward with harassment allegations.
The anchor pressed for greater involvement in crafting his brother’s message and offered up his journalistic sleuthing to find out what other allegations might be looming.
A transcript of an interview with the younger Cuomo showed that at one point the TV host texted Melissa DeRosa, his brother’s top aide, to say “I have a lead on the wedding girl”. It was a reference to Anna Ruch, a woman who accused Andrew Cuomo of attempting to kiss her at a wedding.
Chris Cuomo told investigators a “source” told him about Ruch and a friend told him that “maybe she had been put up to it”.
The broadcaster also used his contacts to warn his brother, via DeRosa, of yet-to-be-published media reports regarding allegations against him.
On 7 March, as rumors swirled that more women were about to come forward, DeRosa texted Chris Cuomo: “Can u check your sources.” He replied, “On it.”
“When asked, I would reach out to sources, other journalists, to see if they had heard of anybody else coming out,” Chris Cuomo said in the July deposition.
The anchor did his show on Monday night without mentioning the topic. In the past, he has said he has never reported on his brother’s situation for the network and never tried to influence coverage. On-air in August, he said: “I tried to do the right thing,” adding he “wasn’t in control of anything”.
Cuomo interviewed his brother on the air a number of times during the first two months of the pandemic. It was a hit with viewers, although it violated CNN’s policy of not having Cuomo report on his brother.