SECOND UPDATE, 7:11 PM PT: Chris Cuomo did not address the new trove of documents released by New York’s attorney general showing the extent to which he advised his brother Andrew Cuomo’s team on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations against him.
In the handoff to Don Lemon, Lemon said to Cuomo, “I am grateful for your friendship and your love. I think that you are fantastic. One of the kindest people I know on this planet.”
UPDATE, 2:15 PM PT: A CNN spokesperson said that the network will be reviewing additional transcripts and exhibits on the role that Chris Cuomo played in assisting his brother as he faced a cascade of sexual harassment allegations earlier this year.
“The thousands of pages of additional transcripts and exhibits that were released today by the NY Attorney General deserve a thorough review and consideration,” a spokesperson said. “We will be having conversations and seeking additional clarity about their significance as they relate to CNN over the next several days.”
Among other things, the release of texts and deposition testimony showed that Chris Cuomo tapped journalism sources to find information about upcoming stories about women’s claims against his brother.
PREVIOUSLY: Newly disclosed texts and a deposition transcript show the extent to which CNN host Chris Cuomo helped his brother Andrew Cuomo, then governor of New York, as he faced newly unfolding allegations of sexual harassment last spring.
Chris Cuomo has acknowledged that it was a mistake to take part in staff calls to advise his brother as he sought to respond to the cascading series of revelations in March. He ended up resigning in August, but has denied misconduct.
Attorney General Letitia James on Monday released new documents as part of her investigation into the former governor. They shed light on Chris Cuomo’s role in shaping his brother’s response and in seeking out his own media sources to gather information on potential new bombshells.
Text messages (read them here) show that last spring, Chris Cuomo communicated extensively with one of Andrew Cuomo’s top aides, Melissa DeRosa, including when rumors swirled that more accusers were about to come forward.
“Rumor going around from politico 1-2 more ppl coming out tomorrow,” DeRosa wrote Chris Cuomo in a text on March 7.
She very quickly added, “Can u check your sources.”
Four minutes later, Cuomo responded, “On it.”
He later let her know, “No one has heard that yet.”
On March 9, DeRosa texted Cuomo that there was a “rumor about Ronan getting ready to move.” She again asked him to “check your sources.”
That was a reference to Ronan Farrow. The New Yorker published a piece by him on March 18, in which the then-governor’s first accuser, Lindsey Boylan, raised new claims of harassment and retaliation.
The texts do not include any immediate specific response to that query, but Chris Cuomo texted on March 14, “If ronan has nothing better than boylan thats a great sign.”
The next day, DeRosa texted Cuomo, “Did you get any more intel?”
“Story not ready for tomorrow,” he texted back.
In his deposition (read it here), Cuomo explained that he would “reach out to sources, other journalists, to see if they had heard of anybody else coming out.”
In the case of Farrow’s article, “I called a fellow journalist who works with Ronan a lot. And I didn’t want to contact Ronan directly. I know him. He’s -he’s been good to me. He’s been on my show. But I didn’t want to — I didn’t want to push up on him like that. It’s not right.”
On March 1, The New York Times reported that one woman, Anna Ruch, said that the then-governor made an unwanted advance at a wedding. Three days later, Cuomo wrote to DeRosa, “I have a lead on the wedding girl.” In his deposition, Chris Cuomo said that he had “learned that this was the wedding of one of the members of Andrew’s team, and that he or someone close to him had said, ‘No. She complained early on about this, and it has always been consistent.’ So that’s that.”
During the deposition, Cuomo denied using his influence as a CNN personality to try to find out more details of when the story would publish.
“If I had tried to influence any of the reporting at CNN or anywhere else, I guarantee you you people would know, and so would a lot of others,” Cuomo said. “So the idea of one reporter calling another to find out about what’s coming down the pipe is completely business-as-usual.”
He also denied that he engaged in any kind of opposition research on his brother’s accusers.
“The idea of trying to find ways to disparage people who come forward with allegations like this is not what I’m about,” he said in the deposition.
But a separate deposition with Lis Smith, a Democratic strategist advising the then-governor, indicated that Chris Cuomo forwarded a “purported set of documents concerning Charlotte Bennett from her time in college.” Bennett, a former executive assistant, came forward with allegations against Andrew Cuomo in a New York Times article on Feb. 27.
In another text, DeRosa shared a news article about Alec Baldwin’s rant about “cancel culture.”
“My friend asked him to do it,” Cuomo responded to DeRosa.
In his deposition, Cuomo said that he was referring to a friend who called him and told him that “Alec wants to talk about cancel culture or political correctness.”
“I asked him not to,” Cuomo said. “I said, ‘Tell him to stay out of it. It’s not necessary.’ He said, ‘Well, he’s going to do it. And I think it’s a good idea for him to do it. He wants to talk about these things.’ Fine. I said, ‘All right, well, that’s my take on it.’ And that’s what it was. And when Melissa then told me that it had happened, I was not aware. But I did know its origin.”
He added, “I wasn’t in favor of it happening because I didn’t think that Alec Baldwin weighing in on this one way or the other was necessarily helpful or respectful to the situation. And I was trying to help my brother, and it just didn’t seem that helpful to me.”
A CNN spokesperson pointed to James’ investigative report, released in August, as well as past statements Cuomo has made on the air. The report said that Chris Cuomo was among those who advised the governor to “express contrition” after additional allegations surfaced in an article in late February.
The AG report also included a Feb. 27 email from Chris Cuomo that appeared to be a suggested statement his brother should make in response after Bennett came forward. A similar statement later appeared on the governor’s website. Andrew Cuomo said that he “never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm.” But it was not clear whether Chris Cuomo wrote the statement himself or was a reaction to it.
According to the texts that were released on Monday, Chris Cuomo texted DeRosa the next day, on March 1, with a suggestion of what his brother “should have said.” He then texted her “Andrew Cuomo’s poor statement, annotated.”
Cuomo said in the deposition that “these may have been things that were passed on to me by other people.” He said in his deposition that “I’ve had the conversation with my brother on numerous occasions that it doesn’t just matter what you thought or intended.”
On March 7, Cuomo texted DeRosa, “No resign. No resign. No resign.” Five days later, he sent a draft statement to DeRosa in which his brother would say, “I will not resign. I cannot resign.”
The statement went on to say, “I understand why they have to say what they are saying. I understand the political pressure I understand the stakes of political warfare, and that’s what this is… And I understand the conformity that can be forced by cancel culture.”
In May, the network said that “it was inappropriate to engage in conversations that included members of the Governor’s staff, which Chris acknowledges. He will not participate in such conversations going forward.” The network said that he “often serves as a sounding board for his brother,” and had said on his show that he would not report on the story because he could not be objective.
In August, Chris Cuomo said on his show that he urged his brother to resign, but “I never attacked nor encouraged anyone to attack any woman who came forward. I never made calls to the press about my brother’s situation and I never influenced or attempted to control CNN’s coverage of my family.”
“I’m not an adviser. I’m a brother,” he said.
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