OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, the brother of former New York Gov. Andre Cuomo, now finds himself in the middle of his own sex scandal.
Shelley Ross, who was a former executive producer at ABC News and CBS News, said in a column for The New York Times, that the CNN anchor sexually harassed her at a party in front of her husband when they were both working at ABC in 2005.
I was Chris Cuomo’s boss at ABC News nearly two decades ago, and I am a regular viewer of CNN today, so I’ve long watched how he communicates on camera and witnessed at times how he behaved behind the scenes. This year, as he escaped accountability for advising former Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his sexual harassment scandal, two moments crystallized for me how Mr. Cuomo performs.
The first was on March 1, two days before Governor Cuomo publicly addressed the sexual harassment allegations made against him by three women and apologized for acting “in a way that made people feel uncomfortable” but denied touching anyone inappropriately. On “Cuomo Prime Time,” Mr. Cuomo explained to his CNN viewers that because of the sexual harassment scandal, he would no longer be covering or interviewing his brother, as he frequently did during the first Covid-19 surge. With an expression of great sincerity, he said, “I have always cared very deeply about these issues and profoundly so. I just wanted to tell you that.”
The second moment came this Labor Day weekend, after Governor Cuomo had resigned and as his loyal confidants and outside advisers were losing their own influential jobs in the fallout. There was Mr. Cuomo in the Hamptons, appearing in a photo wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the word “Truth.”
She recounted an email that he had sent to her to apologize for his behavior.
“Now that I think of it … I am ashamed,” she said was the subject line of the email he sent her in 2005. She said the email came an hour after she was sexually harassed by him at a going away party for an ABC colleague.
“At the time, I was the executive producer of an ABC entertainment special, but I was Mr. Cuomo’s executive producer at ‘Primetime Live’ just before that. 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,” Ross said.
“’I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss,’” she recalled him saying with what she described as ‘cocky arrogance.”
“’No you can’t,’” she remembered herself saying as she pushed him away and she and her husband left.
“He apologized first in his email to my ‘very good and noble husband’ and then to me for ‘even putting you in such a position.’” She said of his email.
“Though my hearty greeting was a function of being glad to see you…,” he said in the email.
“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 …
“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,” he said.
She said that she “never thought that Mr. Cuomo’s behavior 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.”
And in a statement Cuomo gave her for the column he 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.”