Jeff Zucker protected Chris Cuomo, 'his man,' until the new details proved too damaging: Howard Kurtz

Why CNN fired Chris Cuomo

Network failed to act before suspension

Howard Kurtz, host of MediaBuzz, blamed CNN President Jeff Zucker and the liberal network for not cracking down sooner on their former star host, Chris Cuomo. 

“After doing nothing about the Chris Cuomo debacle for months, the network fired its biggest star… Cuomo made really dumb mistakes, crossing some bright red journalistic lines. And yet much of the blame lies with CNN,” Kurtz said. “When The Washington Post first reported that Cuomo had joined strategy calls to help his brother, Andrew Cuomo, battle sexual harassment allegations. CNN chief Jeff Zucker brushed it off. He could have disciplined his guy. He could have launched an internal probe, but nothing happened. No slap on the wrist. Chris Cuomo apologized and moved on.”

UltraViolet, a leading national gender-justice organization, called for CNN to immediately fire Chris Cuomo. 

The scandal-plagued network said Saturday that the “Cuomo Prime Time” host was terminated “effective immediately” after they consulted with “a respected law firm” following “new information that came to light about his involvement with his brother’s defense.”

Text messages released by New York Attorney General’s Tish James‘ office showed that the former CNN host not only provided guidance but was intimately involved in helping his brother by looking to find information on potential looming reports and on at least one accuser as the disgraced governor battled the sexual harassment allegations. 

CNN’s Chris Cuomo performed prop comedy with his brother New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a widely panned segment in 2020. 
(CNN  |  istock)

The CNN anchor apologized in May for his involvement in helping his governor brother. 

“It was a mistake … When my brother’s situation became turbulent, being looped into calls with other friends of his and advisors that did include some of his staff — I understand why that was a problem for CNN.”

Cuomo told New York investigators that he “would never do oppo research on anybody alleging anything like this.”

He further claimed that “I never made calls to the press about my brother’s situation.” Kurtz disputed that statement given the trove of information released by the New York attorney general.

In this image taken from video provided by Office of the NY Governor, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo makes a statement on a pre-recorded video released, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, in New York. An investigation into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has found that he sexually harassed multiple current and former state government employees. State Attorney General Letitia James announced the findings Tuesday. (Office of the NY Governor via AP )
(Office of the NY Governor via AP)

“We now know that’s not true,” Kurtz said. “Cuomo called plenty of journalists to find out about upcoming pieces in the New Yorker and Politico, and in two cases appeared to seek information on his brother’s accusers.”

According to information released by the attorney general, the former “Cuomo Prime Time” host told a top aide to his brother, Melissa DeRosa, “I have a lead on the wedding girl.”

The text was sent after The New York Times reported on a sexual harassment allegation that occurred at a 2019 wedding. 

The network said last night that Cuomo was terminated immediately after law firm found additional information beyond the newly released state documents that showed how intimately the primetime host was involved in orchestrating the defense for the New York governor trying to save his job.

It was amid all the public scrutiny from the newly released details on the investigation that was the tipping point for CNN, according to Kurtz. 

“It was an avalanche of documents from the state AG’s probe that buried CNN with bad press, such as the liberal Atlantic magazine writing ‘Chris Cuomo Must Go.’ That’s when Zucker, who greenlighted all those joking interviews with the brothers last year, felt compelled to act. He protected his man until the new details proved too damaging.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – DECEMBER 08::  Jeff Zucker attends the 13th Annual CNN Heroes at the American Museum of Natural History on December 08, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images)
(Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images)

Kurtz added that he understood the former CNN host’s desire to help his brother, but using his connections in journalism to help the governor was far too many steps beyond journalistic ethics. 

“I take no pleasure in this. I get that Chris was being loyal to his brother, but he wasn’t being loyal to the principles of journalism,” he said. 

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