CNN has suspended anchor Chris Cuomo indefinitely following new revelations about his involvement in the harassment case against his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).
"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," CNN said in a statement to The Hill on Tuesday evening.
"The documents, which we were not privy to before their public 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," the network said. "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."
The network said on Monday evening it would conduct a "thorough review" of documents made public by the New York attorney general's office as part of its investigation into the former governor, who resigned under pressure in August after state Attorney General Letitia James (D) detailed sexual harassment allegations against him from nearly a dozen women.
The documents show Chris Cuomo texting with former top aides to his brother, asking to be included in the planning of the former governor's crisis public relations campaign after the allegations were made.
In one text message exchange in March, Melissa DeRosa, one of the former governor's closest confidants, asked Chris Cuomo to "check with his sources" in the media about additional women coming forward against the governor.
"On it," he replied, according to the documents.
In another text message, Chris Cuomo told DeRosa he had "a lead on the wedding girl," an apparent reference to a woman who accused Andrew Cuomo of touching her inappropriately at a wedding they both attended.
News of Chris Cuomo's participation in the crisis PR sessions were first reported in May.
When the additional documents were released on Monday, CNN was hith widespread criticism for how it had handled the scandal and faced calls to fire the longtime broadcaster.
"This wasn’t just brothers talking about their lives, or even about politics. This was a major network news anchor actively working to support the former Governor of New York in pushing back against sexual harassment allegations and denegrating survivors of abuse," Elisa Batista, campaign director at UltraViolet, a leading national gender justice organization, said in a statement on Tuesday. "CNN should immediately sever ties with Chris Cuomo. Anything less is unacceptable, and further harms survivors of sexual abuse."
CNN reported on Tuesday evening Cuomo's suspension came after staffers at the network had internally expressed dismay at the anchor's conduct. Several other reporters, editors and journalists at news organizations across the political spectrum also admonished Cuomo and how the network was handling his actions.
In August, during an on-air apology, Chris Cuomo said he "never made calls to the press about my brother’s situation."
"I never influenced or attempted to control CNN’s coverage of my family," he said at the time. "And as you know, back in May when I was told to no longer communicate with my brother’s aides in any group meetings, I acknowledged it was a mistake, I apologized to my colleagues, I stopped, and I meant it."
When news of Chris Cuomo participating in strategy sessions with his brother was first made public, CNN President Jeff Zucker reportedly told employees at the network that "there are not special rules for Chris," adding that "he is human and these are very unique circumstances."
Zucker declined to suspend Cuomo at that time, saying doing so would be "punishment for the sake of punishing."