Chris Cuomo a 'despised figure' within CNN at this point as fallout continues over his firing: Insider

CNN reportedly fired Chris Cuomo after sexual assault allegation

Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz on the New York Times’ coverage of a sexual assault accusation against Chris Cuomo, which the former host has denied.

Former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo is loathed within the network he was once the face of as his stormy exit continues to generate casualties.

The latest was CNN executive Allison Gollust, the girlfriend of recently ousted CNN President Jeff Zucker, whose resignation was announced Tuesday night in a scathing memo from WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar.

“The investigation found violations of Company policies, including CNN’s News Standards and Practices, by Jeff Zucker, Allison Gollust, and Chris Cuomo,” Kilar wrote. 

Gollust fired back with a memo of her own, telling colleagues that “tonight is an attempt to retaliate against me and change the media narrative in the wake of their disastrous handling of the last two weeks.”

The latest jolt to upper management has roiled CNN again, which has been caught up in Cuomo’s on and off-air drama for nearly two years. The investigation from an outside law firm initially looked at Cuomo’s conduct regarding his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D., but evolved into what and when Zucker knew as well.

A spokesperson for Chris Cuomo said the former anchor and CNN boss Jeff Zucker had "no secrets" regarding his involvement in protecting his scandal-plagued big brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
(Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images  |  CNN)

Now he and Gollust are out, leaving CNN in flux as WarnerMedia and Discovery prepare to complete a merger and name new leadership at the liberal network.

“It is extremely upsetting,” a CNN insider told Fox News Digital about Gollust’s stormy exit and the war of words between her and WarnerMedia. “It is the talk of the place.”

This is insane,” another CNN staffer said.

Zucker’s downfall from CNN began with his hiring of and loyalty to Cuomo, who became CNN’s highest-rated anchor after a stint on “New Day,” CNN’s morning show that Zucker championed when he first took over in 2013. Zucker moved Cuomo to the coveted 9 p.m. ET slot in 2018, where he consistently lost to Fox News and MSNBC but was nevertheless CNN’s highest-rated figure.

Beginning with his controversial, cozy interviews of his brother at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, his ethical lapses began to pile up. Revelations of his extensive involvement in Gov. Cuomo’s political operations and sexual misconduct defense ultimately led to his suspension, and Zucker fired him in December after an investigation revealed a sexual assault allegation against him by a former ABC News colleague. 

That was in addition to his admission of sexually harassing another ABC News colleague, Shelley Ross, in 2005. Now, Cuomo is not going quietly, reportedly seeking $20 million, according to reporting by FOX Business. CNN has said his firing was for cause.

(Getty Images)

“CC is a despised figure,” said the insider, who had previously commented favorably about Cuomo on a personal level.

Amid the outside firm’s investigation, Zucker was forced to resign on Feb. 2, ostensibly over not initially disclosing that he had a sexual relationship with Gollust, one of his chief deputies at the network. However, they had been rumored to have been involved romantically dating back to their time at NBC in the 1990s and 2000s, even while married to different people. 

His exit caused an uproar at CNN, particularly from on-air talent that loved the hands-on boss.

CNN anchor Jake Tapper, who had been publicly critical of Cuomo’s advising of his brother even before his termination, told Kilar that to an outside observer, Cuomo had “succeeded” in leaking damaging information about Zucker and asked something to the effect of, “How do we get past the perception that this is the bad guy winning?” 

Even voices once openly loyal to Cuomo have privately disparaged him. Don Lemon, who appeared after Cuomo at 10 p.m., was so tight with him that they started a podcast about their friendship and good-natured bickering during their on-air handoff, although both are staunch liberals. But he was among the voices pressing Kilar earlier this month about the nature of Zucker’s exit and Cuomo’s legal battles with the network.

“Did you think about what message it sends to the journalists in the company and also to the larger public that someone can be found to break with those journalistic standards and then get paid handsomely for it?” Lemon asked, according to the Wall Street Journal

Media correspondent Brian Stelter, another Zucker devotee, defended Cuomo publicly last year as he was pilloried for blurring the lines between journalism and family, but he has since turned on him as well, fretting he caused “so many headaches” when he appeared to discuss his firing. He has since reported on a source that said Cuomo was trying to “burn the place down.”

Yet the exits of Zucker, who saw the outlet take a left turn during his nine years in charge, and Gollust, who was once communications director for former Gov. Cuomo, could bring about a shift in CNN’s more partisan approach.

2021 saw the stormy exits of Chris and Andrew Cuomo from CNN and the New York governorship. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
(CNN  |  Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Last year, Liberty Media executive John Malone raised eyebrows at CNN during an appearance on CNBC when he declared CNN should revert to nonpartisan journalism once the liberal network is under the Discovery umbrella. Malone, sits on the board of directors for Discovery Communications, Inc.

“I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing,” Malone said. 

Those comments reportedly rubbed CNN journalists the wrong way, but one reporter told Fox News Digital they’d like to see more promotion of CNN’s journalism. Its primetime shows in particular are dominated by on-air editorials and opinion panels.

“It would be refreshing to [see] CNN’s reporting highlighted more,” a CNN reporter told Fox News Digital. “Less panels.”

The reporter added the internal drama might cause strife with CNN’s stars, but CNN’s overall operations would likely continue as usual.

“CNN is so incredibly bureaucratic … At the end of the day it does seem super high stakes for the CNN stars but very, very low stakes for absolutely everyone else,” they said. “Obviously the direction of the network affects the entire company, but the day to day for most people I think will stay the same.”

Fox News’ Brian Flood contributed to this report.

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