A former executive producer at ABC has accused CNN’s star anchor Chris Cuomo of sexual harassment in an opinion piece published Friday in the aftermath of his disgraced brother’s resignation as governor of New York.
Writing in the New York Times, Shelley Ross says Cuomo greeted her at a 2005 party by wrapping her in a bear hug and grabbing her buttock in front of her husband.
Cuomo later apologized in an email, also published by the newspaper, in which he says: “now that I think of it … I am ashamed,” although he insists his action was intended as “a hearty greeting” with no malicious or sexual intent.
Cuomo, 51, advised his brother Andrew Cuomo through the sexual harassment scandal involving multiple women that ultimately led to the politician’s downfall last month. In an emotional to-camera piece at the time, Cuomo said: “My advice to my brother was simple and consistent on what you did. Tell people what you’ll do to be better, be contrite, and finally accept that it doesn’t matter what you intended. What matters is how your actions and words were perceived.”
Ross, who was for a while Cuomo’s boss as an executive producer of his Primetime Live program at ABC, said the incident happened at a colleague’s leaving party. Cuomo joined CNN in 2013 and has become one of the network’s main stars.
“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,” Ross said in the Times article.
“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.”
Reached Thursday night by the Times, Cuomo issued a 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 said she did not want Cuomo to lose his job. “I hope he stays at CNN forever if he chooses,” she said.
“I would, however, like to see him journalistically repent: agree on air to study the impact of sexism, harassment and gender bias in the workplace, including his own, and then report on it.”
Information and support for anyone affected by rape or sexual abuse issues is available from the following organisations. In the US, Rainn offers support on 800-656-4673. In the UK, Rape Crisis offers support on 0808 802 9999. In Australia, support is available at 1800Respect (1800 737 732). Other international helplines can be found at ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html