Chris Cuomo, CNN 'lawyering up' ahead of brewing $18 million legal battle over firing: reports

CNN-Cuomo separation storyline unlikely to end soon: ‘The Five’

The panel on ‘The Five’ offers analysis

Things might get ugly very fast between CNN and its ousted anchor Chris Cuomo, who is reportedly planning a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the network over his abrupt firing. 

The New York Post reported Cuomo is “set to sue” CNN if it isn’t prepared to pay him “at least $18 million to cover what’s left on his contract,” according to sources.

Cuomo’s contract was reportedly worth $6 million annually, “leaving between $18 million and $20 million that he would be owed” in addition to damages the former “Cuomo Prime Time” host is allegedly seeking. 

An “insider” told the Post the liberal network has “no intention of paying [Chris] Cuomo a penny” and that “If he gets a settlement, there would be uproar.”

“CNN has a standard morality clause in their contract that says if the employee does anything of disrepute, they can be immediately fired,” another source told the Post. 

Puck News later reported that both Cuomo and CNN “lawyered up” with the disgraced anchor hiring attorney Bryan Freedman and his ex-employer pairing with WarnerMedia litigator Daniel Petrocelli.

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)
(Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images  |  CNN)

CNN announced on Saturday it had “effective immediately” terminated Cuomo, who had already been placed on an indefinite suspension for his involvement in his brother’s scandals, after CNN learned of “additional information” that expedited Cuomo’s firing. 

“Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter confirmed on Sunday that the “additional information” CNN had referenced was a sexual misconduct allegation that was brought to the network’s attention by the accuser’s attorney, Debra Katz.  

According to Katz, her client is a “former junior colleague” from another network, which Stelter asserted was ABC News. Cuomo had worked at ABC News from 2006-2013 before joining CNN. Cuomo has denied the new allegations. 

Notably, Katz also represents Charlotte Bennett, the second woman to accuse now-ousted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment.  

Cuomo was previously accused of sexual harassment by veteran TV producer Shelley Ross, who came forward in September in a guest essay from The New York Times alleging Cuomo squeezed her buttock at a 2005 event while the two of them worked at ABC News. Ross provided a copy of the email Cuomo sent to there at the time apologizing for his actions. 

The fallen CNN star also announced Monday that he was ending his radio show on SiriusXM. 

(Shelley Ross/Getty Images)

In September 2020, “Tucker Carlson Tonight” obtained a 2018 audio recording of Cuomo discussing how reporters were allegedly investigating claims that were made against him while he was an anchor for ABC News.

“You know, I’m always careful when I talk to media, you know?” Cuomo told former Trump attorney Michael Cohen. “Do you know how many f—– phone calls I’ve gotten from people at ABC who say that reporters are calling and lying about things they heard about me to try to get stories about me when I was at ABC? Guys calling and saying, ‘I heard he’s the Charlie Rose of ABC, used to invite women to the hotel and open up his bathrobe.’ Do I look like the kind of f—– guy who’s gotta do that?”

“Sure. Why not?” Cohen replied with a chuckle.

Cuomo, who left ABC News in 2013 after previous anchoring “20/20” and “Good Morning America,” went into further detail about what he experienced.

“It’s lying- ‘so I already have a good source that says that he forced one woman to have sex. I just wanted to know if you heard anything like that.’ There is no woman! There is none of that!” the CNN anchor then said. “So here’s the problem: women who do work there say, ‘Oh yeah, you know, some of these men’ and naming me with other guys, ‘You know, we bumped into each other once in the elevator and he put his hand on my shoulder and he made me really uncomfortable.’ I mean, what the f—?”

The beginning of the end for Chris Cuomo at CNN began Monday when the New York Attorney General’s office released documents from its sexual harassment investigation into ousted Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, revealing the anchor was far more involved in helping his brother than he publicly acknowledged. 

Transcripts from his interview with investigators show the CNN star admitting he would reach out to media sources to find out about new accusers who have yet to come forward publicly. 

“When asked, I would reach out to sources, other journalists, to see if they had heard of anybody else coming out,” Cuomo told investigators. 

Cuomo’s admission contradicts what he told CNN viewers in August when he claimed, “I never made calls to the press about my brother’s situation.”

Three days after The New York Times broke the story about Anna Ruch, who alleged the governor sexually harassed her at a 2019 wedding reception, the CNN anchor texted top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa, “I have a lead on the wedding girl.” 

CNN’s Chris Cuomo performed prop comedy with his brother New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a widely panned segment in 2020. 

In another exchange, DeRosa texted to Cuomo, “Rumor going around from politico 1-2 more ppl coming out tomorrow,” then asking him “Can u check your sources?” 

Cuomo replied “on it,” later writing back “No one has heard that yet.”

The “Cuomo Prime Time” host snooped into the progress of Ronan Farrow’s reporting about his brother and relayed it to the governor’s inner circle.

He admitted to contacting colleagues of Farrow for updates but claimed it was simply “business-as-usual” to employ such methods. Text messages released by state investigators showed DeRosa asking about “intel” the CNN anchor had about Farrow’s report on March 15, to which he replied it wasn’t ready for publication. Farrow’s story was eventually published on March 18. 

Additionally, the transcript from investigators’ interview with Democratic strategist and Andrew Cuomo ally Lis Smith showed Chris Cuomo had forwarded her documents regarding the governor’s second accuser Charlotte Bennett and her “time in college.”

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