A bombshell Wall Street Journal report Sunday suggests that CNN president Jeff Zucker knew about CNN host Chris Cuomo's attempts to quash his brother's sex scandal, begging the question as to when the network boss knew.
Accusations that Cuomo aided advisers of his older brother, now-ousted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, came to light in May via a Washington Post article.
CNN "indefinitely" suspended Cuomo on Tuesday, the day after the documents became public and hired law firm Cravath Swaine & Moore to investigate. The legal entity on Friday informed CNN that the media giant had cause to fire Cuomo after concluding that he had violated the network's standards and practices.
Zucker stood by Cuomo last spring after revelations surfaced that the career journalist helped the older Cuomo navigate a sexual harassment scandal that led to the New York governor's disgraceful resignation in August.
At a virtual town hall with staffers, Zucker conceded that Cuomo had "made a mistake" when advising his brother, an elected official, on how to handle the plaguing sexual harassment accusations. But the CNN chief also said he wasn't surprised the matter was discussed among family, declaring in May that suspending Cuomo would be "punishment for the sake of punishing."
An unrelated allegation of sexual misconduct was later lodged against Cuomo, dating back to a former ABC News colleague. The suspected ex-staffer's lawyer Debra Katz said the anonymous client was motivated to come forward because of Cuomo's on-air hypocritical statements in support of sexual harassment victims.
"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 in a written statement.
Cuomo and Zucker's professional relationship morphed when a whirlwind of damning information culminated in recent days, including detailed records from the New York attorney general's office, the investigative report from Cravath Swaine & Moore, and the final blow to the jugular from Katz's vengeful client.
Zucker was caught off guard and felt Cuomo had misled him, according to the Wall Street Journal's sources. Over the weekend, Zucker turned on Cuomo in a complete 180, firing him on a call Saturday, one of the sources said.
The discoveries wounded Zucker, who prides himself on developing employee relationships based on trust, sources close to the head honcho said.
However, the canned CNN host has since fired back, accusing Zucker of knowing about the Cuomo family's public relations patch-up. The fallen TV star threw Zucker under the bus in a saber-rattling statement, alleging that he knew about the younger Cuomo's shady support for the embattled Democrat brother.
A spokesman for Cuomo said in a text message to the Wall Street Journal on Sunday: "Mr. Cuomo has the highest level of admiration and respect for Mr. Zucker. They were widely known to be extremely close and in regular contact, including about the details of Mr. Cuomo's support for his brother. There were no secrets about this, as other individuals besides Mr. Cuomo can attest."
The move prompted CNN to slam Cuomo in a written statement, expressing disappointment in the ex-employee's characterization of events.
"He has made a number of accusations that are patently false," the cable news behemoth stated to the Wall Street Journal. "This reinforces why he was terminated for violating our standards and practices, as well as his lack of candor."
Sunday's article has ushered in speculations that Zucker fired the CNN primetime star once Cuomo was likely to be implicated, protecting the TV personality up until the 11th hour—when it was time to discard the dead weight.
CNN staffers were taken aback that there wasn't disciplinary action when the controversy was first ignited, according to sources inside the network.
When the CNN president defended Cuomo for months, employees figured the household name would survive any fallout. Workers were then astonished when Zucker reversed course, with several on-air and behind-the-scenes staffers believing that Cuomo could be back on television in January.
Zucker has been a longtime champion of Cuomo at CNN. Back in 2013 when Cuomo first arrived at CNN, the executive recruited the then-ABC News correspondent to co-anchor a morning news show. Zucker promoted Cuomo to the coveted 9 pm timeslot in 2018, placing CNN's golden boy against two cable news heavyweights: MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and Fox News stalwart Sean Hannity.
One year later in April 2019, Zucker praised Cuomo's combative style to The Hollywood Reporter and touted "the perfect cable news anchor" for making all the right enemies. "He never backs down from a fight," Zucker commended.
In the end, Cuomo was terminated "effective immediately" Saturday.
"This is not how I want my time at CNN to end but I have already told you why and how I helped my brother," Cuomo said of the termination.
CNN's Jim Acosta was on-air when CNN made the announcement, leaving the correspondent to break the news to viewers alongside Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter, who claimed that Cuomo caused "so many headaches time and time again" and that there were numerous "unhappy" as well as "frustrated" CNN staffers.
Cuomo's show suffered abysmal viewership as the lowest ratest show of 2021. Cuomo Prime Time brought in 605,000 total viewers, and just 126,000 viewers in the key age demographic of 25-54, according to data from Nielsen Media Research.
Podcast icon Joe Rogan slammed the left-wing network's "ideological slant," calling CNN "f*cking propagandists" that act as "the right arm of Pfizer."
Out of yet another job, Cuomo announced Monday afternoon that he's quitting his SiriusXM show "Let's Get After It." Cuomo was absent on the noon EST program when it aired. Listeners instead heard from former ABC News reporter Brian Ross.
About an hour after the program ended, Cuomo stated he was leaving, saying he needed "to take a step back and focus on what comes next."
"The way my time ended at CNN was hard. While I have a thick skin, I also have a family, for whom the past week has been extraordinarily difficult," Cuomo tweeted. The second unemployed Cuomo added that he will miss "our conversations a great deal—but I look forward to being back in touch with you all in the future."
Cuomo's radio silence on the two-hour segment was followed by Ross not indicating who would be behind the microphone on Tuesday.
CNN is now bracing for a legal battle with Cuomo over his $6 million per year contract, sources told the New York Post. Cuomo has hired lawyers and is preparing to file suit against CNN if it doesn't honor the remainder of the four-year contract he signed last year. But the network has "no intention of paying Cuomo a penny," an insider said Monday. "If he gets a settlement, there would be uproar."