Chris Cuomo, who was fired from his prime-time perch at CNN in December for inappropriately aiding his governor brother’s response to a sexual harassment scandal, has filed an arbitration claim seeking $125 million in compensation from the company.
Bryan Freedman, the powerful Hollywood litigator who is representing Cuomo, went on to argue that CNN made Cuomo “the scapegoat” of a broader scandal over CNN’s dealings with the Cuomo brothers that culminated in the eventual ouster last month of network president Jeff Zucker and his longtime lieutenant, Allison Gollust.
Since his dismissal, Cuomo’s team has insisted that CNN’s top brass was always aware of the role he played in helping then-New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, even while Zucker told employees that he was misled on this point by Chris Cuomo, formerly a close friend.
In their filing, Cuomo’s lawyers argued “an apparent rush to judgement and caving to uninformed public and internal pressure that was based on speculation and assumption rather than facts.”
They wrote that the $125 million he is seeking represents not just $15 million remaining from his CNN contract but also future “decades of earnings” that they argue he has been deprived of because “CNN’s calculated efforts to tar and feather him” left him “untouchable in the world of broadcast journalism.”
Their filing also lashes out at CNN’s top executives, essentially accusing them of some of the same ethical transgressions that ensnared Cuomo.
Media critics had raised concerns about CNN’s decision to let Cuomo interview his brother about his handling of New York’s pandemic crisis in a series of jocular broadcasts in the spring of 2020. In the filing, Cuomo’s team claims that CNN leadership “demanded” he conduct these interviews, “despite Cuomo’s and Gov. Cuomo’s expressed reservations.”
Last March, The Washington Post reported that Gov. Cuomo arranged for his brother and other well-connected people to get special access to state-administered coronavirus tests early in the pandemic, when tests were hard to come by. In the filing, Chris Cuomo’s lawyers claim that Zucker and Gollust also “demanded priority testing from Gov. Cuomo’s administration,” and that the governor’s staff “felt it had no choice but to fulfill” because of their “power over [Chris] Cuomo’s career.” Zucker and Gollust declined to comment on the claim.
The filing also alleged that Zucker and Gollust “acted as advisors” to then-Gov. Cuomo and provided him “with talking points and strategies,” a charge that both have previously denied.
At the time of Cuomo’s firing in December, CNN had also been made aware of a complaint of sexual misconduct made against Cuomo by a former colleague at ABC News. On Wednesday, his legal team maintained that the complaint was “entirely fabricated.”
Zucker and Gollust’s departures came after CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia, hired a law firm to investigate the company’s handling of the Cuomo matter. While being questioned about it, the two acknowledged that they had begun a romantic relationship, a violation of company policies.
Cuomo’s camp is seeking arbitration before JAMS, a private alternative dispute resolution provider. A spokesperson for WarnerMedia and CNN declined to comment on Cuomo’s arbitration demand, which was first reported by Deadline.com on Wednesday.