Viewers tuning into CNN on a chilly morning in December 2017 might have been puzzled when a treacly corporate promotion interrupted the network's wall-to-wall news coverage of the Trump administration.
Between segments on President Donald Trump's tax plan, which would be signed into law four days later, and a blackout at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport that grounded more than four hundred flights, New Day anchor Chris Cuomo—his smiling face appearing above a banner that blared "‘WeWork' Helps Veteran's Vision Come True"—lauded the real-estate company for "doing the right thing" even when it didn’t "have to."
The anchor, who was fired in 2021 amid a damning investigation into his months-long efforts to help his brother, the former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, shake allegations of sexual harassment and save his political career, went on to extol a WeWork program intended to help veterans by offering them mentorship and free office space.
"That's awesome," cohost Alisyn Camerota gushed. The former New Day anchor had decamped to CNN in 2014 after a decade and a half at Fox News, a notoriously inhospitable environment for women.
What Cuomo did not say was that the bizarre segment was engineered and aired to keep quiet a former colleague at a different network who would later come forward accusing him of sexual misconduct and who was, in 2017, doing public relations for WeWork.
At the height of the #MeToo movement—Cuomo's NBC News colleague Matt Lauer had been fired just weeks earlier, on November 29, 2017—Cuomo was using network resources to cover his own behind and to ensure he wasn't the next man to fall. His use of CNN air to silence a victim of sexual misconduct is almost certainly the gravest of the abuses perpetrated by any of the network employees who have been dismissed over the past several months, including Cuomo, former network president Jeff Zucker, and Zucker's former lieutenant and paramour, Allison Gollust. So it is puzzling that CNN has managed to avoid both transparency and accountability for Cuomo's most appalling behavior, which has largely remained in the dark, at least to network outsiders.
A network spokesman, Matt Dornic, who has referred to CNN's journalists as "my reporters," declined to comment on a matter "that may be related to litigation." The network, now owned by WarnerBros. Discovery, recently launched a new streaming service, CNN+, to enormous fanfare, "expected to be cut dramatically in response to low adoption," according to Axios.
The allegation that Cuomo dangled a professional favor in an attempt to silence a former colleague was leveled in a Dec. 1 letter from attorney Debra Katz to CNN. A New York Times report in February revealed the existence of the letter, but did not indicate whether any segment had gone to air nor what company Cuomo had arranged to promote. It is unclear what the precise nature of the conversations between Cuomo and his former colleague were leading up to the segment, and Katz did not respond to repeated inquiries from the Washington Free Beacon. She has attempted to dissuade others from writing about the segment, sources say, citing her client's desire to remain anonymous.
A spokesman for Cuomo, who has denied the allegations, declined further comment.
CNN said in December that it had cause to terminate Cuomo for "his conduct with his brother's defense," but that when it received the allegations outlined in Katz's letter, "We took them seriously, and saw no reason to delay taking immediate action." The network also pledged to continue investigating Cuomo's wrongdoing "as appropriate" even after his termination.
Katz said in a Dec. 5 statement that her client came forward after watching Cuomo tell viewers—when Andrew Cuomo was accused of sexual harassment—that he had "always cared very deeply about these issues and profoundly so," and that her client was outraged by the hypocrisy of his on-air theatrics.
"Hearing the hypocrisy of Chris Cuomo's on-air words and disgusted by his efforts to try to discredit these women, my client retained counsel to report his serious sexual misconduct against her to CNN," Katz said.
While Cuomo was fired days after network brass received Katz's letter, it is still unclear what role the allegations leveled by Katz's client—and Cuomo's use of network resources to cover up his own personal misconduct, years before any wrongdoing related to his brother—played in his dismissal, though one source familiar with the deliberations says network brass had decided to fire Cuomo by the time they received Katz's letter. The executive producer of New Day at the time, Javier Morgado, did not respond to a request for comment about how—and why—the segment went to air. Morgado is now the producer of CNN's 11 a.m. show At This Hour. Camerota did not respond to a request for comment about her participation in the segment.
It is unclear who among CNN's top brass read Katz's letter, but CNN general counsel David Vigilante and former CNN president Zucker are familiar with its contents, sources say.
Camerota, who has offered no public comment on her professional relationship with Cuomo, is now the cohost of CNN Newsroom. She has been outspoken about the wrongdoing that went on at Fox News, telling CNN's Brian Stelter last year that the network is "rotten to the core."
"I guess that even though there are really good people there who are trying to do their jobs," she said, "it's not enough because unless you get rid of—and stamp out—the predators, of course, the culture is still going to be rotten." She has, however, protested Zucker's dismissal, telling Stelter in February that it feels "deeply wrong."
Cuomo's behind-the-scenes involvement as a public-relations adviser to his embattled brother was the subject of an investigation conducted for CNN by the white-shoe law firm Cravath, Swaine, and Moore which found, among other things, that Gollust — a former spokeswoman for Andrew Cuomo –was working to arrange segments for him on CNN. Cuomo's brother Andrew's conduct was the subject of a separate investigation by New York attorney general Letitia James, which found that as women came forward accusing Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, Chris Cuomo had used his journalistic sources to keep his brother apprised of emerging news stories about them.
CORRECTION April 13, 2022 2:45 PM: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Chris Cuomo's accuser made no accusation of sexual misconduct until 2021. It previously stated the accusation came earlier. It has also been updated to indicate that Chris Cuomo used his journalistic contacts to suss out the nature and timing of stories containing accusations of sexual harassment against his brother, Andrew, not that he worked to tarnish the reputations of women accusing his brother of sexual harassment as was previously stated. We regret the error.