On Friday, CNN's Chris Cuomo was accused by long-time television journalist Shelley Ross of sexually harassing her once in the past when they worked together at ABC News, and now feels that Cuomo should use his position at CNN to "journalistically repent" for his past behavior.
The accusation came in a Friday morning opinion piece written for the New York Times by Ross, where she outlined the 2005 incident.
Ross said that Cuomo squeezed her buttock without permission at an event for a colleague leaving ABC back in 2005, but noted that Cuomo had previously apologized for his behavior that day.
"At the time, I was the executive producer of an ABC entertainment special, but I was Mr. Cuomo's executive producer at 'Primetime Live' just before that," Ross wrote. "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. 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."
Ross said that Cuomo told her "I can do this now that you're no longer my boss," 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," Ross continued.
Ross noted that soon after the incident, she received an email from Cuomo apologizing for his actions, but questioned "Was he ashamed of what he did, or was he embarrassed because my husband saw it?"
"[T]hough my hearty greeting was a function of being glad to see you … christian slater got arrested for a (kind of) similar act, (though borne of an alleged negative intent, unlike my own)…and as a husband I can empathize with not liking to see my wife patted as such," Cuomo wrote in his email with the subject line "now that I think of it… I am ashamed…"
"So pass along my apology to your very good and noble husband… and I apologize to you as well, for even putting you in such a position… next time, I will remember the lesson, no matter how happy I am to see you…" Cuomo continued.
Ross wrote that she does not wish to see Cuomo fired from his job, instead, she hopes "this is an opportunity for him and his employer to show what accountability can look like in the #MeToo era."
"I'm not asking for Mr. Cuomo to become the next casualty in this continuing terrible story. I hope he stays at CNN forever if he chooses," said Ross. "I would, however, like to see him journalistically repent: agree on air to study the impact of sexism, harassment and gender bias in the workplace, including his own, and then report on it."
Ross had suggestions for Cuomo, saying "He could host a series of live town hall meetings, with documentary footage, produced by women with expert consultants. 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."
Cuomo commented to 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 condemned Chris Cuomo's role as an advisor to his older brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, during the time in which 11 women stepped forward with allegations of sexual assault and harassment against him.
She wrote that "two moments crystallized for me how Mr. Cuomo performs."
She noted that o n March 1, Cuomo announced on Cuomo Prime Time that he would no longer be covering or interviewing his brother, saying "With an expression of great sincerity," he said, "I have always cared very deeply about these issues and profoundly so. I just wanted to tell you that."
The Cuomo's had regularly engaged in playful, soft-ball interviews throughout the beginning of the pandemic, frequently avoiding questions regarding the nursing home scandal and New York's state of crisis.
Cuomo was previously barred from covering his brother, a rule that was lifted by the network at the beginning of the pandemic and later implemented again as Andrew Cuomo began facing a surge of accusations.
The second moment she said came over Labor Day weekend, when Cuomo appeared in a photo taken in the Hamptons wearing a t-shirt with the word "Truth" written on it following his brother's resignation.
"For me, his statement of profound concern about sexual harassment and his 'Truth' T-shirt were provocations in this era of personal accountability," wrote Ross.
"Now, given Mr. Cuomo's role as a supporter of and counselor to his brother, I am left again wondering about his relationship with truth and accountability. Has this man always cared 'deeply' and 'profoundly' about sexual harassment issues? Does he believe enough in accountability to step up and take some meaningful actions?" Ross added.
Cuomo was named an advisor to his brother in a report from New York Attorney General Letitia James, where the report says he was part of "ongoing and regular discussions about how to respond to the allegations publicly" and that he appeared to counsel the governor "to express contrition."
"We all know that Mr. Cuomo was being consulted by his brother; what has never come to light, and what Mr. Cuomo has not been held to account for, is the full scope of the advice he gave his brother and whether his advice and his role in helping shape the defense of a sitting governor (one who was being investigated by Mr. Cuomo's own network) were in keeping with CNN's standards and values," wrote Ross.