Even after the departure of his boss, former CNN President Jeff Zucker, Chris Cuomo still intents to engage in a legal battle with his former network, reportedly intending to demand upwards of $60 million.
According to sources that spoke with the New York Post's Page Six, Cuomo intends to claim that Zucker had known about his dealing with his brother, disgraced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, with Zucker having his own inappropriate dealings with the former governor.
Cuomo was fired in December after it was revealed that he had a larger part to play in assisting his brother fight his sexual misconduct allegations.
One source said: "Chris insists he never did anything for his brother Andrew that Zucker didn’t know about."
"His camp believes Zucker wasn’t fired for an inappropriate relationship with Allison Gollust. Everybody knew about that and nobody cared," they continued. "What he believes happened is WarnerMedia found something in their investigation into Chris, perhaps internal memos or documents which revealed more about Zucker’s involvement with Andrew Cuomo. Gollust was just a convenient excuse."
"Chris intends to fight for every dollar on his contract, and loss of income from the 15 to 20 years left in his career, had Zucker not orchestrated a ‘f–k-job’ on him. He could ask for as much as $80 million but CNN isn’t going to pay that. But there’s an argument he could ask for as much as $60 million," they added.
Another source told Page Six that Cuomo intends to demand "Megyn Kelly money," referring to the 2019 settlement reached between Kelly and NBC of $69 million after she defended blackface on her show.
"Chris is telling people in the Hamptons he was wrongly fired, humiliated, his career has been ruined, and he wants Megyn Kelly money," they said.
During the early days of the pandemic when the elder Cuomo brother was regarded as a hero for his daily pandemic press conferences, Zucker reportedly personally ensured that he had frequent appearances on Chris Cuomo’s show, because the duo was great on TV.
Sources told Page Six that Zucker even allegedly "coached Andrew Cuomo [on] what to say in his press conferences, particularly how to hit back at President Donald Trump. He advised him when, and where, and what to say. He chastised Andrew if he appeared on other networks. When this all finally comes out, it will put an end to the big cry fest going on at CNN over Zucker's ousting."
A representative for Zucker previously said regarding the claim that he gave Andrew Cuomo preferential treatment and coaching for his COVID press conferences, "This is 100 percent false. During a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic when people were desperate for information, CNN and every other network took the briefings live."
"Jeff of course had a relationship with Andrew Cuomo, as he does with countless other electeds," they added.
In recent days, Cuomo has become regarded as villain, with CNN host Jake Tapper referencing him as a "terrorist" in a meeting with Time Warner CEO Jason Kilar last week in CNN’s DC newsroom.
"If you could address the perception… that Chris Cuomo gets fired by CNN, Chris Cuomo hires high-powered lawyer [sic] who has a scorched earth policy, who then makes it very clear to the world that unless Jeff gives Chris Cuomo his money, they’re going to blow the place up," Tapper began, according to New York Times reporter Michael Grynbaum.
"Stuff starts getting leaked to gossip websites about Jeff and Allison…and then weeks later Jeff comes forward and discloses this and resigns, not willingly," he continued. "An outside observer might say, well it looks like Chris Cuomo succeeded. He threatened, Jeff said we don’t negotiate with terrorists, and Chris blew the place up."
"How do we get past that perception that this is the bad guy winning?" Tapper asked.
CNN staff in New York reportedly pressed Kilar for additional details regarding Zucker’s departure in a Monday meeting, asking whether Cuomo would be receiving a severance package after his firing.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Don Lemon asked, "Did you think about what message it sends to the journalists in the company and also to the larger public that someone can be found to break with those journalistic standards and then get paid handsomely for it?"
While Zucker has previously stated that CNN would not be paying Cuomo any severance, Kilar has only stated that he would not comment on personnel matters.
With Zucker now out of the picture, some believe that Cuomo has lost the leverage he needed over CNN.
"But insiders in Cuomo’s camp point to the 'litigation hold' letter his attorney Bryan Freedman fired off to general counsel at CNN and WarnerMedia the day after Chris was fired," wrote Page Six.
The letter doesn’t mention Zucker’s relationship with CNN’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer Allison Gollust, it does direct the network’s staff to preserve documents relating to the investigation of Andrew Cuomo and "any appearance by Andrew Cuomo" on Chris’ show.
"They plan to force out evidence that could prove Andrew Cuomo’s alleged close ties to Zucker," Page Six reported.
When Cuomo officially files his arbitration claim, legal sources say that CNN’s chief defense witness would be Zucker, who has yet to be questioned, and according to Page Six, likely will not be.
The first source added, "Will WarnerMedia just settle to make this all go away ahead of the merger? Or will it risk more embarrassing documents and details coming to light through Cuomo’s legal action?"
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