I’ve always been a firm believer in holding everyone to the same set of moral standards no matter their politics or affiliation; otherwise, what’s the point of having them at all? Nothing is more despicable than weaponizing empathy and the demands of justice for cheap political points, especially when it comes to the gravely serious and unacceptably pervasive epidemic of sexual harassment and assault in the United States.
This is why it is absolutely astonishing and monstrously unethical that CNN has refused to report on or take any action against anchor Chris Cuomo, who was publicly accused of sexual harassment by a former executive producer.
Since the accusation came to light on September 24th, Cuomo has not acknowledged the incident on his show, nor has there been any coverage from anywhere else on CNN, according to a FOX News scan of Grabien’s media archives — not even on Brian Stelter’s Sunday show, which is literally about covering the media. The only acknowledgment CNN has made is a brief statement from Cuomo and a blurb buried towards the bottom of the “Reliable Sources” newsletter.
In an op-ed for the New York Times, Shelly Ross described an incident in which Cuomo casually groped her at a party and then apologized for it in an email.
“Now that I think of it … I am ashamed,” read the subject line of a 2005 email Mr. Cuomo wrote me, one hour after he sexually harassed me at a going-away party for an ABC colleague. 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,” he said to me with a kind of cocky arrogance. “No you can’t,” I said, pushing him off me at the chest while stepping back, revealing my husband, who had seen the entire episode at close range. We quickly left.
Soon after, I received the email from Mr. Cuomo about being “ashamed.” He should have been. But my question today is the same as it was then: Was he ashamed of what he did, or was he embarrassed because my husband saw it? (He apologized first in his email to my “very good and noble husband” and then to me for “even putting you in such a position.”) Mr. Cuomo may say this is a sincere apology. I’ve always seen it as an attempt to provide himself with legal and moral coverage to evade accountability.
Cuomo responded with the following statement: “As Shelley acknowledges, our interaction was not sexual in nature. It happened 16 years ago in a public setting when she was a top executive at ABC. I apologized to her then, and I meant it.” Ross was not satisfied with that obviously insincere and dismissive statement, saying to Business Insider that “I was hoping that in 15, 16 years that he had changed, but he’s no more enlightened today than he was then, as demonstrated by his response.”
Ross said that she didn’t want Cuomo to lose his job but to “journalistically repent” for his behavior. It’s an excellent choice of words, for Cuomo has a long list of journalistic sins to repent for.
During Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s own sexual assault and harassment scandal, which eventually forced him from office, Chris Cuomo was discovered to be actively consulting his brother on how to respond to the allegations — which Chris said he should deny and defy — while his own network was investigating the Governor. Cuomo later said this was a “mistake” and the spineless bootlickers who run CNN complained that the conversations were “inappropriate” but took no action to punish what was an outrageously unethical breach of journalistic integrity that Chris Cuomo should have been immediately fired for.
Coming so closely on the heels of Chris Cuomo’s last shameful scandal, the lack of any kind of punitive action speaks volumes about the kind of people who run CNN and the performative nature of their supposed commitment to justice and ethics.
While “journalistic integrity” and “for-profit media” are not always mutually exclusive concepts, it is deplorable to see CNN look the other way while one of their most prominent anchors debases himself in such a selfish and arrogant fashion. How can we expect CNN to do its job and hold the powerful accountable when they won’t even hold their own anchors accountable?
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.