On Friday, CNN host Chris Cuomo was hit with a sexual harassment claim by his former boss, who claimed that he inappropriately touched her at a party back in 2005.
In an op-ed published by The New York Times, former ABC executive producer Shelley Ross claimed that Cuomo grabbed her butt in front of her husband and co-workers at a 2005 work party. She added that Cuomo later emailed her to apologize and said that he was “ashamed.”
“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,” she wrote.
“‘ 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,” Ross continued.
On June 1, 2005, Cuomo sent Ross an email that included a subject line that read, “Now that I think of it … I am ashamed.”
Cuomo compared his actions to those of Heathers actor Christian Slater, who had been arrested a month earlier for sexually harassing a woman on a New York City street by grabbing her butt. All charges against Slater were later dropped.
“Though 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.
“So pass along my apology to your very good and noble husband … and I apologize to you as well, forever putting you in such a position,” he concluded. “Next time, I will remember the lesson, no matter how happy I am to see you.”
Ross questioned whether Cuomo was ashamed because of his actions or only because her husband witnessed it in her op-ed. She also alleged that the CNN host attempted to “legally differentiate” his behavior from Slater’s.
“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,” Ross said. “I never thought that Mr. Cuomo’s behavior was sexual in nature. Whether he understood it at the time or not, his form of sexual harassment was a hostile act meant to diminish and belittle his female former boss in front of the staff.”
Cuomo responded in a statement obtained by The New York Post, saying, “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.”
While Ross said that she doesn’t want Cuomo to lose his job on CNN, she added that she would like to see him be held accountable for what he did to her in the wake of his brother, disgraced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, resigning amidst his own sexual harassment scandal.
“If Mr. Cuomo and CNN management don’t think he crossed a serious line, one that warrants consequences, I know he crossed a line with me,” Ross said.
It looks like the Cuomo brothers have quite a bit in common! Your move, CNN.