UPDATE: Chris Cuomo will join Nexstar’s NewsNation this fall, landing at the fledgling news outlet after his dismissal from CNN late last year.
The announcement came at the end of an hourlong interview with Dan Abrams on NewsNation’s Dan Abrams Live. The wide-ranging interview, his first since exiting CNN, covered his firing after the disclosure of the extent to which he advised his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, as he faced sexual harassment allegations.
“I really believe that this outlet has a chance to reach who I call free agents — not right, not left, reasonable. Regular, open mind, open heart, willing to listen when someone disagrees,” Cuomo said.
Abrams’ sit down, taking place during the timeslot that Cuomo previously occupied at CNN, seemed designed to address his firing and other issues, including a claim of sexual assault, in advance of the NewsNation announcement.
NewsNation reaches a fraction of the audience of major cable networks — even of the viewership of the current 9 PM ET hour on CNN that has been filled with rotating hosts since Cuomo’s departure. According to Nielsen, NewsNation has averaged 50,000 viewers in primetime so far this year, compared to 2.4 million for Fox News, 1.2 million for MSNBC and 762,000 for CNN.
Still, NewsNation has drawn personalities like Abrams and Ashleigh Banfield, former personalities at major cable networks, while it has expanded its programming to other dayparts. The network launched in September, 2020, promoting itself as an objective news source in a primetime cable news lineup dominated by opinion hosts and analysis.
“I want to build something special here, work with Dan, work with the team here,” Cuomo said. “We got great people who are really hungry to make a difference in ways that I think matter. I have decided that I cannot go back to what people see as ‘the big game.’ I don’t think I can make a difference there. I think we need insurgent media. We need outlets that aren’t fringe and are just trying to fill their pockets….I am going to do the job. I am going to where the news is, and I among to try very hard to be fair.”
Cuomo was dismissed from CNN in December, following new revelations about the extent to which he advised his brother.
During the interview, Abrams also asked Cuomo about allegations of sexual assault. Shortly after Cuomo’s exit, The New York Times reported that the allegations, brought to the attention of CNN management, involved a sexual assault claim by a junior colleague at another network. At the time, Cuomo denied the allegations and called his dismissal an “unwarranted termination.”
In the interview, Cuomo again denied the allegations.
Abrams asked, “Do you know who this woman is?”
“I think I do,” Cuomo said.
“And none of this happened” Abrams asked.
“None of this happened,” Cuomo said.
He also denied another allegation, detailed in the New York Times, that he worked to feature a flattering segment about her employer on his CNN show, a gesture her lawyer claimed was an effort to buy her silence.
“It is absolutely not true, but it is for her to explain,” Cuomo told Abrams.
But he did say that the show reached out to her, but that it was a “no brainer” segment.
“Again, these are things for someone else to explain,” Cuomo added. “If you are going to make the allegation it is about how you feel and what you think…. my feeling is, it is in the past. I am never going to be able to convince people one way or another. I feed the story by commenting on it. I denied it, and you try to move on. A big aspect of our business will say that it is accountability, it is responsibility, but I don’t know that is always true.”
Cuomo insisted that CNN executives knew that he was advising his brother. After that was disclosed in May, 2021, Cuomo apologized on his show. He said that he did so because he found out that “a lot of colleagues felt compromised.”
“I offered several times to leave the job,” he said. “… I never imagined that what I was doing to help my brother would reflect badly on CNN.”
Abrams also pressed Cuomo on something he said to viewers in August, 2021: That he “never made calls to the press about my brother’s situation.” But texts with Melissa DeRosa, a top aide to his brother, suggested that Cuomo worked media sources to gather “intel” about additional stories of new allegations against his brother.
Abrams said, “You were obviously doing recon to find out what was out there.”
“I think it is a distinction with a difference,” Cuomo replied, insisting that he did not try to influence coverage.
“When I said I didn’t make press calls, what I meant was, ‘influence the story'” Cuomo said.
Cuomo also offered a defense of his spring, 2020 interviews with Andrew Cuomo, breaking with network policy because of the conflict of interest. They also were done with the blessing of Jeff Zucker, then the president of CNN.
He said that the segments, at the start of the Covid pandemic, resonated with the audience, along with his own experiences after contracting the virus. He said that viewers thanked him for the segments at a time of great uncertainty over the virus and its effects.
“Of course there was a conflict of interest, and people got that,” Cuomo said. “People got that, the media should have gotten it, they should have seen it for what it was.”
But he acknowledged that the segments were something “that would come back to haunt me.”
PREVIOUSLY: In his first sit down interview since he was fired by CNN, Chris Cuomo denied that he tried to influence media coverage of his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, as he was facing allegations of sexual harassment.
The revelations that Cuomo served as an informal adviser to his brother, while still hosting his nightly CNN talk show, ultimately led to his termination in December.
In excerpts of an interview with NewsNation’s Dan Abrams, Cuomo said, “I never contacted any media who were covering my brother to try to affect their coverage. I talk to people in the media all the time.”
Abrams then noted, “But you said, ‘I never made calls to the press about my brother’s situation.’ You did make calls to press about your brother’s situation.”
“But I think the distinction has a meaningful difference,” Cuomo replied. “The concern would be, not that I called you and said, ‘What do you think’s going on here?’ It’s me calling you and saying, ‘Hey, tonight in your segment, I hope you remember that.”
The full interview is scheduled to air on Tuesday evening. NewsNation also said that Cuomo will address allegations of sexual harassment, as well as other topics.
When he was terminated, CNN released a statement that said, “Based on the report we received regarding Chris’s conduct with his brother’s defense, we had cause to terminate. When new allegations came to us this week, we took them seriously, and saw no reason to delay taking immediate action.” The New York Times then reported that the new allegations involved a sexual assault claim by a junior colleague at another network. Through a spokesman, Cuomo denied the allegations and called his dismissal an “unwarranted termination.”
In March, Cuomo’s attorneys filed a $125 million demand for arbitration against CNN, contending that top CNN executives, including then network president Jeff Zucker, knew about the assistance that he was providing to his brother.
“I never lied, and there were no secrets.” Cuomo told Abrams.
Cuomo also defended his decision to advise his brother.
“I love my brother. The rule in my family is very simple: Family. Trouble. Go. Other people have the luxury of judging allegations and situations. For me, it was about helping out my brother in a hard way, and doing it in a way that I didn’t think comprised what matters. That is what guided me.”
Zucker resigned from CNN in February, citing his failure to disclose a consensual relationship with a colleague. That executive, Allison Gollust, exited the company later in the month after the company completed an investigation of the Cuomo matter. The investigation found violations of corporate policy on the part of Cuomo, Gollust and Zucker, according to then WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar. Gollust had briefly worked for Andrew Cuomo before joining CNN. She blasted the circumstances of her exit as “an attempt to retaliate against me and change the media narrative in the wake of their disastrous handling of the last two weeks.”
Chris Cuomo launched a new podcast series last week.
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