Twitter on Friday was bristling with barbed comments aimed at CNN host Chris Cuomo in response to a bombshell claim that he grabbed his former ABC boss’ buttock during an event in 2005.
Shelley Ross, former executive producer at ABC and CBS, accused the married dad-of-three presenter in a searing opinion piece for the New York Times detailing the alleged incident at a going-away party for a colleague 16 years ago.
Cuomo sent an email shortly afterward saying he was ‘ashamed,’ and apologized to Ross’ husband, who was present during the encounter.
The host of the eponymous Cuomo Prime Time had faced an avalanche of criticism and widespread calls for his firing over his role in advising his brother, Andrew Cuomo, who resigned as New York governor last month over allegations of sexual harassment from multiple women.
Twitter wits wasted no time drawing unflattering comparisons between the two Cuomo siblings on Friday.
Brigitte Gabriel, founder of the right-wing group ACT for America, wrote: ‘It looks like being a creep is part of being a Cuomo.’
CNN’s Chris Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment by his former ABC boss Shelley Ross (right), who claims he squeezed her buttock upon greeting her in a bar
Twitter lit up with fury directed at Chris Cuomo on Friday, with many commenters drawing unflattering comparisons between the CNN host and his older brother
Lindsay Boylan, the first woman to publicly accuse Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, praised Shelley Ross for seeking to hold Chris Cuomo accountable
Similarly, Fox News contributor Sara A Carter wondered: ‘Runs in the family?’
Sebastian Gorka, an adviser to former President Donald Trump, quipped that ‘being a pervert runs in Fredo’s family’ – a reference to the character of Michael Corleone’s weak and hapless brother in The Godfather films.
Steve Milloy, a Fox contributor and climate change denier, went a similar route, writing: ‘Fredo, you’re in trouble now.’
Amid the chorus of condemnation, Lindsay Boylan, the first woman to publicly accuse Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, praised Ross for breaking her silence.
‘Thank you Shelley Ross. Your focus on accountability is exactly right,’ she tweeted. ‘@ChrisCuomowill you hold yourself accountable?’
Ross, who has spoken out in the past about being sexually harassed by the late Fox News boss and serial sex pest Roger Ailes, said Cuomo gave her a ‘bear hug’ in the bar and grabbed and squeezed her buttock.
Cuomo later sent her an email, apologizing for his actions, she said.
Ross added that she did not believe his actions were ‘sexual in nature’ but rather a ‘form of sexual harassment’ where he attempted to ‘diminish and belittle his female former boss.’
‘I never thought that Mr. Cuomo’s behavior was sexual in nature,’ she wrote.
‘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.’
The CNN anchor has not denied the allegations, telling the Times on Thursday ‘it happened 16 years ago’ and ‘was not sexual in nature.’
‘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,’ he said.
‘I apologized to her then, and I meant it.’
As of Friday afternoon, CNN has not commented on the allegations against Cuomo.
Former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann hit out at Cuomo on Twitter
Meanwhile, on social media negative comments targeting the embattled TV presenter have continued pouring in throughout the day.
‘This is a very powerful opinion piece,’ tweeted Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean. ‘I commend Shelly Ross the for having the courage to write it. I’m not as hopeful that Chris Cuomo will change, though. He advised his brother about his sexual harassment accusations and his employer allowed it.’
Ari Cohn, a First Amendment lawyer, joked: ‘I guess at least that means @andrewcuomo was getting advice from someone who knew what he was talking about.’
Right-wing commentators were not the only ones attacking Cuomo.
‘The ‘Rules Don’t Apply To Me’ code often transcends specific topics,’ former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann tweeted. ‘First, @ChrisCuomo violated journalistic standards by covering/ignoring his brother. Now he’s accused of sexual harassment at ABC.’
David Simone, Shelley Ross and Ryan Silverman in 2014. Ross said the incident happened in front of her husband Simone
At the time of the alleged incident, Ross had recently moved jobs from executive producer at ABC’s ‘Primetime Live’ – where Cuomo was an anchor – to becoming the executive producer of an ABC entertainment special.
Ross said Cuomo explained his actions away on the night as being okay because she was ‘no longer my boss.’
‘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,’ she wrote in the op ed.
‘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.’
Cuomo told her ‘I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss,’ she claimed, adding that it was said ‘with a kind of cocky arrogance’.
Ross said she pushed Cuomo away from her, with her husband witnessing what had happened.
”No you can’t,’ I said, pushing him off me at the chest while stepping back, revealing my husband, who had seen the entire episode at close range. We quickly left,’ she wrote.
Ross said she received an email from Cuomo one hour later telling her she was ‘ashamed’ of his behavior.
The email, dated June 1 2005, first apologized to Ross’s ‘very good and noble husband’ for having to witness his wife ‘patted as such’ – and apologized to her second.
‘Now that I think of it… I am ashamed,’ read the subject line of the email.
‘though my hearty greeting was a function of being glad to see you…,’ the email began.
Chris Cuomo is pictured with his family in a photo on his Instagram account. Ross said Cuomo gave her a ‘bear hug’ in the bar and grabbed and squeezed her buttock in 2005
Chris Cuomo is seen wearing a shirt emblazoned with the phrase ‘Truth’ during a Labor Day getaway to the Hamptons earlier this month
Cuomo then went on to compare his actions to that of Hollywood actor Christian Slater, who one month earlier had been arrested for allegedly randomly grabbing a woman’s buttocks while she was walking through a street in Manhattan, New York City.
Slater was charged with third degree sexual abuse but the charges were later dropped.
‘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…,’ the email read.
‘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…
He closed out the email with: ‘next time, i will remember the lesson, no matter how happy i am to see you…’
In her op ed, Ross said she questioned whether Cuomo was ‘ashamed’ of ‘what he did, or was he embarrassed because my husband saw it?’
She added: ‘Mr. Cuomo may say this is a sincere apology. I’ve always seen it as an attempt to provide himself with legal and moral coverage to evade accountability.’
She also questioned whether their was a legal motive behind his email, pointing to the comparison Cuomo – a former lawyer – made with Slater, saying she believes he was attempting ‘to legally differentiate the two incidents.’
Ross said she was speaking out about the incident after watching Cuomo’s handling of the sexual harassment scandal surrounding his brother Andrew.
The governor stood down in disgrace in August when a damning investigation by the New York attorney general found he had sexually harassed at least 11 women.
The allegations began surfacing in December when the first of multiple women – many of them current and former aides in the governor’s office – came forward to accuse him of sexual harassment.
The governor was also rocked by the COVID-19 nursing home deaths scandal where his administration was accused of covering up the death toll in state facilities after he issued a March 2020 directive ordering nursing homes to readmit COVID-positive patients.
Questions also arose over the writing of his controversial memoir with allegations he had government staffers work on the private project.
The governor was also accused of giving special treatment to his friends and family – including Chris – in the early days of the pandemic, be providing them with COVID-19 tests when they were in short supply.
CNN host Cuomo had often brought his brother onto his show during the pandemic – when the governor was on a pedestal for his handling of the crisis in New York.
When the allegations continued to mount against the governor, Chris Cuomo announced on his CNN show that he would not cover or interview his brother due to the scandal.
‘I have always cared very deeply about these issues and profoundly so. I just wanted to tell you that,’ he told viewers in early March.
In May, it emerged that the CNN host had been advising his brother over the scandal.
This involvement drew the ire of his CNN colleagues and Cuomo was forced to apologize to viewers and colleagues.
Calls mounted for his resignation from CNN and the network admitted his actions had been ‘inappropriate.’
Andrew Cuomo left and Chris Cuomo right. The CNN anchor has come under fire for his handling of his brother’s sexual harassment scandal
The AG’s report into the governor’s behavior found that Cuomo had been part of ‘ongoing and regular discussions about how to respond to the allegations publicly’.
However, he insisted he was not advising him in a professional capacity but ‘as a brother.’
‘It was a unique situation being a brother to a politician in a scandal and being part of the media,’ he said live on air in mid-August.
‘I tried to do the right thing, and I just want you-all to know that.’
Then, earlier this month Cuomo was spotted wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the word ‘Truth’ across it during a Labor Day getaway to the Hamptons.
Ross said she questions whether her alleged harasser truly believes in ‘accountability’ for such behavior.
‘For me, his statement of profound concern about sexual harassment and his ‘Truth’ T-shirt were provocations in this era of personal accountability,’ she wrote.
‘Given Mr. Cuomo’s role as a supporter of and counselor to his brother, I am left again wondering about his relationship with truth and accountability.
‘Has this man always cared ‘deeply’ and ‘profoundly’ about sexual harassment issues?
Ross has spoken out in the past to claim she was sexually harassed by disgraced former Fox News chairman-CEO Roger Ailes (pictured)
‘Does he believe enough in accountability to step up and take some meaningful actions?’
Ross pointed to accountability for people accused of enabling the governor’s conduct, such as Time’s Up’s CEO Tina Tchen who stood down after it emerged the nonprofit was involved in a letter seeking to discredit allegations of an accuser.
‘While the fallout has continued across Governor Cuomo’s circle of advisers… Mr. Cuomo and CNN seem to have moved on,’ she wrote.
‘If Mr. Cuomo and CNN management don’t think he crossed a serious line, one that warrants consequences, I know he crossed a line with me.’
Ross said she doesn’t wish for the CNN anchor to ‘become the next casualty in this continuing terrible story.’
Instead, she said this could be a ‘watershed moment instead of another stain on the career of one more powerful male news anchor”
‘I would, however, like to see him journalistically repent: agree on air to study the impact of sexism, harassment and gender bias in the workplace, including his own, and then report on it,’ she said, describing it as ‘The Continuing Education of Chris Cuomo’.
Ross has spoken out in the past to claim she was sexually harassed by disgraced former Fox News chairman-CEO Roger Ailes.
Ailes, who died in 2017, led Fox for two decades before being ousted following multiple accusations of sexual harassment by several women, including former Fox hosts Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson.
Some of the allegations went back almost six decades.
Ross penned a 2016 article for the Daily Beast detailing that Ailes had proposed a ‘sexual alliance’ as a form of ‘loyalty’ to her work as a producer.
She said Ailes had hired her in 1981 as a segment producer on NBC’s ‘Tomorrow Show’, which he was executive producer for.
During a lunch on the day she accepted the job offer, she said Ailes asked her: ‘When did you first discover you were sexy?”
‘My head suddenly dropped like a marionette and I could no longer make eye contact. I could only manage to stare at my feet as I answered, ‘I am finding this conversation very embarrassing,” Ross wrote.
Ailes then continued to be ‘very persistent’ and allegedly went on to tell her that ‘the best expression of that loyalty comes in the form of a ‘sexual alliance.”
When she then tried to back out of taking the job, she said three NBC lawyers intervened.
Ailes then apologized to her telling her his actions were down to ‘middle age craziness’ and tried to convince her to accept the job.