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Is that a threat, Chris? Fired CNN host says network chief Zucker knew ‘all the details’ 

Fired CNN anchor Chris Cuomo on Sunday turned on his former boss, accusing the network’s president of Jeff Zucker of wrongly firing him – and hinting that Zucker knew all about the texts which sunk his career. 

Chris Cuomo is seen in March 2014 with CNN’s president Jeff Zucker. The pair have spectacularly fallen out this weekend with Zucker firing Cuomo, and Cuomo in response saying that Zucker was fully informed about the events for which he is now being punished

A spokesman for Cuomo told the Wall Street Journal Sunday: ‘Mr. Cuomo has the highest level of admiration and respect for Mr. Zucker,’ the spokesman told The Wall Street Journal. 

‘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.’

In response to the broadside, CNN said in a written statement it disagreed their former star’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.’  

Cuomo, 51, was fired on Saturday, four days after CNN’s president, Jeff Zucker took him off the air and announced his ‘indefinite suspension’.

CNN said in a statement that Cuomo had mislead them about his efforts this spring to help his brother, Governor Andrew Cuomo, in countering allegations of sexual harassment.

Cuomo has now claimed Zucker knew all about what was going on, with the network vehemently denying that.   

Chris Cuomo is seen on Monday November 29 - the last night he hosted his CNN show

Chris Cuomo is seen on Monday November 29 – the last night he hosted his CNN show

Zucker, 56, supported his star anchor for as long as he felt able to, according to reports

Zucker, 56, supported his star anchor for as long as he felt able to, according to reports

The combative statements raise the specter of a public clash between Cuomo and CNN’s president, with whom he used to enjoy mingling on the Hamptons cocktail circuit – where both men have homes.

Earlier this year, Cuomo told CNN viewers and executives that he had indeed assisted his brother’s team, but that his involvement had been minimal. 

But on Monday, the attorney general, Letitia James, released text messages between Cuomo and his brother’s staff, showing that he was deeply involved in combatting the allegations and provided help in strategy and communications.

CNN, on Tuesday, said that he was suspended because the text messages showed ‘a greater level of involvement in his brother’s efforts than we previously knew.’ 

On Saturday, announcing his firing, the network said that lawyers they contracted to investigate upheld Cuomo’s suspension, and said his behavior was inappropriate. 

Zucker then fired Cuomo – who initially said he was ‘disappointed’, but did not lash out.

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

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 

 

Pages of text exchanges between Chris Cuomo and Andrew Cuomo's top aid Melissa DeRosa were released by the New York Attorney General's office on Monday

Pages of text exchanges between Chris Cuomo and Andrew Cuomo’s top aid Melissa DeRosa were released by the New York Attorney General’s office on Monday

Melissa DeRosa, former secretary to the governor, exchanged dozens of messages with Chris Cuomo as her boss's sexual harassment scandal was unfolding

Melissa DeRosa, former secretary to the governor, exchanged dozens of messages with Chris Cuomo as her boss’s sexual harassment scandal was unfolding

Zucker, 56, hired Cuomo from ABC News in 2013 in one of his first moves when he took over CNN, and demonstrated considerable compassion for Cuomo during the summer, when the saga unfolded.

Zucker had promoted Cuomo to prime time in 2018, letting him have the prized 9pm hour, and setting him against the influential Rachel Maddow at MSNBC and Sean Hannity at Fox News. 

A year later, Zucker was full of praise for his star, telling The Hollywood Reporter that Cuomo was ‘the perfect cable news anchor.’ 

When The Washington Post reported in May that the news anchor had been advising his brother on strategy, in a breach of journalistic protocol, Zucker defended him and said that he was in a unique and very difficult position. 

‘Chris has not been involved in CNN’s extensive coverage of the allegations against Governor Cuomo — on air or behind the scenes,’ the network said in a statement. 

‘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.

‘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.’

The network said Cuomo would not be disciplined.

Zucker, seen in June 2019, was close to Cuomo, with both men keeping summer homes in the Hamptons

Zucker, seen in June 2019, was close to Cuomo, with both men keeping summer homes in the Hamptons

When Andrew Cuomo, 63, resigned in August, Zucker likely hoped that the thorny issue would go away.

Yet the situation stormed back onto Zucker’s desk on Monday, when Letitia James, the New York attorney general, published the text messages.

On Tuesday, CNN said in a statement that Cuomo had been suspended, noting: ‘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.’

On Saturday, they referenced obliquely another allegation of sexual misconduct against Cuomo from one of his former colleagues at ABC News. 

Debra Katz, a lawyer for the former staffer, said her client was motivated to come forward by Cuomo’s on-air statements in support of victims of sexual harassment.  

‘Chris Cuomo was suspended earlier this week pending further evaluation of new information that came to light about his involvement with his brother’s defense,’ CNN said on Saturday. 

‘We retained a respected law firm to conduct the review, and have terminated him, effective immediately.

‘While in the process of that review, additional information has come to light,’ the network said, with the ‘additional information’ said by their media correspondent, Brian Stelter, to be the allegation of sexual misconduct. 

‘Despite the termination, we will investigate as appropriate.’ 

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