CNN executive Allison Gollust has resigned following the conclusion of an investigation into the behavior of the network’s former star anchor Chris Cuomo that led to his firing and the forced departure of President Jeff Zucker earlier this month.
Cuomo was fired in early December after his CNN bosses learned that he was more extensively involved in helping to defend his brother, then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), against allegations of sexual misconduct than he had acknowledged, crossing an ethical line from neutral journalist to advocate.
While being questioned as part of that investigation, Zucker and Gollust acknowledged that they had started a romantic relationship — but had not properly disclosed it, a violation of WarnerMedia policies.
Just before the memo was made public, the New York Times reported new details about a sexual misconduct claim that apparently hastened Cuomo’s firing, though little information was made public about it in December.
According to the Times, a lawyer for a woman who worked at ABC with Cuomo a decade ago informed CNN in early December that Cuomo had beckoned the “young temporary” employee to his office under the pretense of offering her career advice and instead made sexual overtures and assaulted her.
The Times also reported that the lawyer told CNN that Cuomo reached out to the woman at the height of the #MeToo movement and suggested that CNN do a story about the company where she worked in public relations. The lawyer, Debra S. Katz, wrote in her letter to CNN that her client perceived this offer as an attempt “to discourage her from going on the record about his sexual misconduct.”
Steven Goldberg, a spokesman for Cuomo, said late Tuesday that the misconduct claims in Katz’s letter are false and that the anchor “was never asked about the allegations prior to being terminated or given an opportunity to respond.”
In his memo to staff, Kilar said the company’s investigation into the Cuomo matter is now complete. But he offered no other specific details about what the investigation had found.
Late Tuesday, Gollust blasted Kilar’s statement as “an attempt to retaliate against me and change the media narrative in the wake of their disastrous handling of the last two weeks.”
She added: “It is deeply disappointing that after spending the past nine years defending and upholding CNN’s highest standards of journalistic integrity, I would be treated this way as I leave.”
After Zucker’s sudden resignation in early February, Kilar faced strong criticism from some of CNN’s most prominent anchors and correspondents, who felt blindsided by the move; in contentious meetings with staffers, Kilar defended his decision and the way it was made, even as he conveyed that Zucker ultimately made the choice to resign.
Gollust, who joined CNN in 2013 and had very closely worked with Zucker during an earlier tenure at NBC, had initially said that she intended to remain with the company after his sudden departure — though colleagues expected her to ultimately depart.
In a statement at the time, Gollust had said that her longtime friendship with Zucker “changed during covid,” with both Zucker and Gollust acknowledging that they had failed to disclose that dynamic.
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