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Chris Cuomo apologized in email to ex-boss accusing him of sexual harassment, she has doubts he meant it

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CNN host Chris Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment by a former network boss who described the incident in a New York Times op-ed published on Friday.

“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,” wrote Shelly Ross, also a former executive producer at ABC and CBS.

“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,” she added.

The first, she explained, came during a March 1 broadcast, two days before the disgraced and now-former governor spoke publicly about sexual harassment allegations that had been made against him before apologizing for behaving “in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” though he denied he inappropriately touched any of the women. Ross went on to note that Chris Cuomo explained during that broadcast he wouldn’t be interviewing his governor brother anymore due to the scandal, adding: “I have always cared very deeply about these issues and profoundly so. I just wanted to tell you that.”

Ross said the second incident came over 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.” She said Chris Cuomo was photographed in the Hamptons wearing a t-shirt with the word, “Truth.”

“For me, his statement of profound concern about sexual harassment and his ‘Truth’ T-shirt were provocations in this era of personal accountability,” Ross continued. “So here’s another moment involving Mr. Cuomo, the one that stands out most in my experience with him.”

Ross went on to note that Cuomo sent her a 2005 email with the subject line “Now that I think of it … I am ashamed,” in which he went on to apologize for inappropriately physically touching her in front of her husband, which she explained:

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.

 

“I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss,” said Cuomo, according to Ross, with “a kind of cocky arrogance.”

“No you can’t,” she responded, backing away, “revealing my husband, who had seen the entire episode at close range. We quickly left.”

Shortly afterward, she said Cuomo sent her the mea culpa email, in which Cuomo wrote that he was “ashamed,” apologizing to “very good and noble husband” before adding that he was sorry “even putting you in such a position.”

Ross went on to question whether Cuomo was actually sorry for the harassing act of grabbing her buttock or because her husband saw the incident.

“Now, 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? Does he believe enough in accountability to step up and take some meaningful actions?” Ross wrote.

“I have no grudge against Mr. Cuomo; I’m not looking for him to lose his job. Rather, this is an opportunity for him and his employer to show what accountability can look like in the #MeToo era,” she said.

Later, Ross cited news reports noting that Chris Cuomo, who is a lawyer by education, advised Andrew Cuomo not to cave in to pressures for him to resign amid a rising number of sexual assault allegations. She also noted that he apologized after the reports went viral and that CNN only labeled his involvement in his brother’s situation as “inappropriate.”

“I’m not asking for Mr. Cuomo to become the next casualty in this continuing terrible story. I hope he stays at CNN forever if he chooses,” Ross wrote in conclusion.

“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. He could host a series of live town hall meetings, with documentary footage, produced by women with expert consultants. Call it ‘The Continuing Education of Chris Cuomo’ and make this a watershed moment instead of another stain on the career of one more powerful male news anchor,” she wrote.

Jon Dougherty

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