Chris Cuomo Accused of Sexual Harassment By Former Boss

In an article for The New York Times, Chris Cuomo's former boss at ABC News, Shelley Ross, accused him of sexually harassing her at a going-away party for a colleague in 2005.

By Elyse Dupre Sep 24, 2021 4:38 PMTags
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Chris Cuomo's former boss at ABC News, Shelley Ross, has accused him of sexually harassing her in 2005.

The former executive producer at the network brought forth the allegations against the CNN anchor in a piece published in The New York Times on Friday, Sept. 24.

In the article, Ross said the alleged incident took place at a going-away party for a colleague in New York. She was serving as an executive producer for an ABC entertainment special at the time after working as Cuomo's executive producer at Primetime Live.

"I was at the party with my husband, who sat behind me on an ottoman sipping his Diet Coke as I spoke with work friends," she wrote. "When Mr. Cuomo entered the Upper West Side bar, he walked toward me and greeted me with a strong bear hug while lowering one hand to firmly grab and squeeze the cheek of my buttock. 'I can do this now that you're no longer my boss,' he said to me with a kind of cocky arrogance. 'No you can't,' I said, pushing him off me at the chest while stepping back, revealing my husband, who had seen the entire episode at close range. We quickly left."

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Ross said Cuomo sent her an email about an hour later with the subject line "Now that I think of it … I am ashamed."

"He should have been," Ross continued. "But my question today is the same as it was then: Was he ashamed of what he did, or was he embarrassed because my husband saw it? (He apologized first in his email to my 'very good and noble husband' and then to me for 'even putting you in such a position.') Mr. Cuomo may say this is a sincere apology. I've always seen it as an attempt to provide himself with legal and moral coverage to evade accountability."

According to the email, which Ross shared with The New York Times, Cuomo also wrote, "Christian Slater got arrested for a (kind of) similar act (though borne of an alleged negative intent, unlike my own)." The actor was arrested in 2005 for allegedly grabbing a woman's buttock on the street. According to The New York Times article, he was charged with third degree sexual abuse but the charge was later dropped. His publicist Evelyn Karamanos called the incident a "misunderstanding" in a comment to the newspaper at the time.

"Mr. Cuomo, a former lawyer, appeared to use his short apology to legally differentiate the two incidents," Ross wrote. "He suggested Mr. Slater had 'negative intent' while he, Mr. Cuomo, did not. He seemed to have a keen understanding of what accountability might look like back then; today we have no clear idea if either he or CNN is interested in accountability."

Dominik Bindl/WireImage

In the piece, Ross noted she "never thought that Mr. Cuomo's behavior was sexual in nature."

"Whether he understood it at the time or not," she continued, "his form of sexual harassment was a hostile act meant to diminish and belittle his female former boss in front of the staff."

In response, Cuomo told The New York Times, "As Shelley acknowledges, our interaction was not sexual in nature. It happened 16 years ago in a public setting when she was a top executive at ABC. I apologized to her then, and I meant it."

Ross' article comes about a month after Cuomo's brother Andrew Cuomo stepped down as governor of New York. The resignation came after the New York attorney general's investigation found the politician sexually harassed several current and former New York State employees. He apologized to his accusers but said he believed he "never crossed the line with anyone."

According to the attorney general's report, the former governor's brother and other members of his "team of advisors from within and outside the chamber had ongoing and regular discussions about how to respond to the allegations publicly." The host stopped covering the allegations for CNN and apologized to viewers. In a statement to NBC News, CNN also said Cuomo acknowledged it was "inappropriate to engage in conversations that included members of the Governor's staff." 

In her New York Times article, Ross called for accountability. "I have no grudge against Mr. Cuomo; I'm not looking for him to lose his job," she wrote. "Rather, this is an opportunity for him and his employer to show what accountability can look like in the #MeToo era."

She noted she'd like him to "journalistically repent," such as by agreeing "on air to study the impact of sexism, harassment and gender bias in the workplace, including his own, and then report on it." 

"He could host a series of live town hall meetings, with documentary footage, produced by women with expert consultants," she stated at the end of the piece. "Call it 'The Continuing Education of Chris Cuomo' and make this a watershed moment instead of another stain on the career of one more powerful male news anchor."

E! News has reached out to Cuomo's rep, CNN and ABC but has not received any comment.

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