Chris Cuomo's former boss: He sexually harassed me -- and admitted it in an email

Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

“Sexually harassed” seems like an unduly mild way to describe what Cuomo is accused of here. When you lay hands on a woman in a prurient way without her consent, that’s typically called sexual assault.

Regardless, suddenly there’s a nonzero chance that both of the obnoxious, underwhelming Cuomo brothers will be out of public life before year’s end.

As hard as 2021 has been for America, every gray cloud has a silver lining.

Cuomo’s accuser is Shelley Ross, an executive producer at ABC when he worked there 16 years ago. She claims that he once greeted her at a party with a hug — and a squeeze of her ass, in full view of her husband. And she has documentary evidence of it courtesy of Cuomo himself.

“Now that I think of it … I am ashamed,” read the subject line of a 2005 email Mr. Cuomo wrote me, one hour after he sexually harassed me at a going-away party for an ABC colleague. 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. 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.

“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.

Soon after, I received the email from Mr. Cuomo about being “ashamed.” He should have been. 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.

Click the link above and scroll down to a see an image of the email Cuomo allegedly sent to Ross. Said Greg Pollowitz, “Total Fredo move putting the confession in writing right after the crime occurred.”

But there’s some truth to what Ross says about Cuomo being lawyerly in his confession. He compares what he did to her with what actor Christian Slater was accused of doing not long before, grabbing a woman’s ass on the street. Unlike in that case, Cuomo stressed to Ross, there was no “negative intent” on my part. That does sound like a half-assed attempt by a bad lawyer to manufacture some evidence about his state of mind during an assault after the fact.

One wonders why Ross’s husband didn’t confront Cuomo at the time. Did he not want to make trouble for his wife at work by starting a fight with her assailant in front of other ABC staff? Or did he think twice about making an enemy of a member of a powerful political family, the son of a former governor and brother of a future governor?

One also wonders whether Cuomo would have admitted his wrongdoing to the Times last night if Ross hadn’t kept the digital evidence of what he’d done for a decade and a half. “As Shelley acknowledges, our interaction was not sexual in nature,” he told the NYT. “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.”

Guilty as charged. So: Is it finally time for CNN to solve its recurring Cuomo headache?

Not everyone thinks so:

Dreher’s definition of “gallant” is different from mine, but no matter. If this had been the only problem Cuomo had caused his network, you could understand if CNN claimed that he’d learned his lesson and let him slide. (Ross says twice in her op-ed that she doesn’t want him fired. She’d prefer to see him “study the impact of sexism, harassment and gender bias in the workplace, including his own, and then report on it.”) But Cuomo has brought Jeff Zucker nothing but problems over the past year. He got caught advising his brother during his own sexual harassment scandal without telling management, a case of a reporter unethically shaping a story that was being covered by his own news bureau. He was also exposed as the beneficiary of special access to COVID testing early in the pandemic by dint of his family connections back when he and Andrew were assuring the public that “we’re all in this together.”

Meanwhile, his ratings have been tanking for months, with the decline accelerating after Andrew finally resigned. And as a cherry on top, he’s been known to mouth pieties about #MeToo publicly, adding a charge of hypocrisy to the indictment against him. His alleged allyship with wronged women seemed absurd and insincere after Americans found out he’d been strategizing with Andrew on how to wriggle free from his own #MeToo mess by grousing about “cancel culture.” It seems even more ridiculous after Ross’s piece.

Now comes the point in every #MeToo scandal where everyone holds their breath and waits to see if more accusations follow. It’s possible that his hug with Shelley Ross was the one and only time Chris Cuomo has ever grabbed a woman’s ass unbidden, but it doesn’t seem likely. Logically it would take a certain degree of confidence in one’s own impunity to pull a move like that in front of a woman’s husband. Where did that confidence come from, if not from experience?

I’ll leave you with this blast from the recent past.