Former ABC executive producer and veteran TV journalist Shelley Ross recently detailed the events of a sexual harassment incident with CNN’s Chris Cuomo. She explains in a New York Times op-ed how Cuomo grabbed her butt at a 2005 work party in front of her husband and coworkers, adding later that it was a “hearty greeting.”
Ross details how she had been working as an executive producer at an ABC entertainment program at the time and had been Cuomo’s boss on ABC’s “Primetime Live.” The news comes shortly after Chris’s alleged involvement in the sexual assault scandals that took down his brother, former Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Seems like the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
“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,” Ross wrote,
Ross went on to reveal how Cuomo told her with a cocky arrogance that he could “do this now” that she’s no longer his boss. She said she pushed him off her chest while stepping back to reveal that her husband had been present for the entire episode at close range. She said that they quickly left.
Cuomo emailed Ross on June 1, 2005, with a subject line that said, “Now that I think of it … I am ashamed.” He compared his actions to actor Christian Slater, who’d been arrested a month earlier for sexually harassing a woman on a New York City street. Slater had done the same thing and grabbed a woman’s butt, even though the charges were later dropped. He wrote to Ross how Christian Slater got arrested for a similar act, but that “as a husband” he can empathize with not liking to see his wife patted as much.
Cuomo apologized for putting her in the position and asked her to pass along the apology to her husband. “Next time, I will remember the lesson, no matter how happy I am to see you,” Cuomo wrote.
In the op-ed, Ross asked if Cuomo was only ashamed because her husband witnessed it. She goes on to say that Cuomo’s behavior was not “sexual in nature,” but was meant as a hostile act to diminish and belittle his female former boss in front of the staff. But Cuomo has fought back against the allegations, saying that it happened 17 years ago in a public setting when she was a top executive at ABC.
Ross said her goal is not for Cuomo to lose his job, but rather for this to serve as an opportunity to show what accountability can look like, adding that he should “journalistically repent” for his past behavior. She said that Cuomo should study the impact of sexism, harassment, and gender bias in the workplace, including his own, and then report on it. CNN did not respond to comments on the allegation.
Ross even suggested hosting a series of live town hall meetings with documentary footage and women talking about the watershed moments of another stain on the career of a powerful male news anchor. She condemned Chris’s brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, during which he sexually harassed and assaulted 11 women, including former female staffers. Ross wrote that the reveal of Chris’s strategy calls to help his scandal-plagued brother is when the “two moments crystallized” for how the Cuomo brothers perform.
Chris frequently avoided tough questions with his brother throughout the COVID-19 crisis in New York City and the nursing home scandal, often throwing him playfully, soft-ball interviews. The younger Cuomo often urged his brother not to step down and blamed “cancel culture” for the allegations. Of course, all of those allegations became true after the report from New York General Letitia James was released.
It’s not a surprise that truth and accountability aren’t big in Cuomo’s playbook – and that he does the exact same things. Chris Cuomo was even seen wearing a “Truth” shirt shortly after his brother’s departure from the political office. It’s not a surprise that the Democratic governor who has been engulfed in a tsunami of political scandals has a brother who does the exact same thing. He just hasn’t been caught yet.