Chris Cuomo is seeking over $125 million in a new arbitration filing against CNN, claiming the network’s decision to fire him was unjustified and that it damaged his ability to find future work as a journalist and media figure.
Cuomo was fired from CNN back on Dec. 4, 2021, following a report from the New York Attorney General’s office that extensively detailed how Cuomo helped his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, navigate several sexual misconduct allegations. CNN said Cuomo broke the network’s rules in assisting his brother, but in his new filing, Cuomo argues that the network and its main executives were not only aware of what he was doing but had altered network rules to allow Cuomo interview his brother at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The filing, first reported by Deadline, states, “Cuomo has been damaged in countless ways. Cuomo has had his journalistic integrity unjustifiably smeared, making it difficult if not impossible for Cuomo to find similar work in the future and damaging him in amounts exceeding $125 million, which includes not only the remaining salary owed under the Agreement, but future wages lost as a result of CNN’s efforts to destroy his reputation in violation of the Agreement.”
Reps for Cuomo and CNN did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s requests for comment.
According to the filing, CNN originally prohibited Cuomo from interviewing his brother in late 2013, but at the start of the pandemic, CNN lifted that rule to let Governor Cuomo appear on Cuomo Prime Time due to his high profile at the time. Additionally, the arbitration suit claims that two of CNN’s top executives, Jeff Zucker and Allison Gollust, both of whom have since left the network, also “acted as advisors to Gov. Cuomo during this time by providing him with talking points and strategies for responding to statements made by then-President Donald Trump.” (Rolling Stone reported on Zucker and Gollust’s communications with Cuomo and more in a recent exposé.)
When the sexual misconduct allegations against Gov. Cuomo came out, the filing acknowledges that Chris Cuomo “did what he could to support and assist his brother,” but adds that “he was always transparent with CNN about his role as a confidant to his brother, and he never reported on the allegations against Gov. Cuomo.” The filing later states that Cuomo had “no reason to believe” his actions were inconsistent with CNN’s policies, “especially given the fact that Zucker and Gollust had encouraged him to do so and had themselves provided advice to Gov. Cuomo.”
When it came to CNN’s decision to fire Cuomo, the filing claims that CNN was already aware of all the details in the New York AG’s report. Nevertheless, it states, Zucker “falsely claimed he had been unaware of the extent and nature of the assistance Cuomo had provided his brother.” Additionally, Cuomo claims he was never able to speak with the law firm CNN hired to investigate his conduct, depriving him of a chance to not only address the nature of his relationship with his brother but also rebut an allegation of sexual misconduct made against him by an anonymous woman.
Not only does Cuomo claim he didn’t violate CNN’s standards and practices, thus making his firing a breach of contract, it also argues that Zucker violated his employment agreement by failing to tell other CNN employees not to speak out against Cuomo. Cuomo’s contract apparently contained a clause requiring CNN “make reasonable efforts to instruct its employees not to make any intentionally disparaging comments regarding [Cuomo] in the context of [Cuomo’s] business and professional activities.” The filing claims CNN violated this stipulation when various staffers, including marquee hosts like Jake Tapper and Don Lemon, “joined in the calculated campaign to smear Cuomo and destroy his reputation… This campaign led to widespread news coverage that ultimately made Cuomo an outcast from the world of journalism.”
For now, Cuomo’s case will remain in arbitration as CNN preps its response. It is possible the dispute could go beyond the scope of arbitration, in which case it could end up in court.