TO UPDATE: Chris Cuomo will join Nexstars NewsNation this fall, joining the fledgling news agency after being fired from CNN late last year.
The announcement came at the end of an hour-long interview with Dan Abrams on NewsNation Dan Abrams is alive. The wide-ranging interview, his first since leaving CNN, looked at his firing after it was revealed the extent to which he advised his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, when he was faced with allegations of sexual harassment.
“I genuinely believe this outlet has a shot at reaching those I call free agents — not right, not left, sane.” Regular, upfront, open, willing to listen if anyone disagrees,” Cuomo said.
Abrams’ session, which took place during the time slot Cuomo previously occupied at CNN, appeared designed to address his firing and other issues, including a sexual assault allegation, ahead of NewsNation’s announcement.
NewsNation reaches a fraction of the audiences of the major cable networks — even the viewership of the current 9 p.m. ET hour on CNN, which has been filled with rotating anchors since Cuomo’s departure. NewsNation has averaged 50,000 prime-time viewers so far this year, according to Nielsen, compared to 2.4 million on Fox News, 1.2 million on MSNBC and 762,000 on CNN.
Still, NewsNation has attracted figures like Abrams and Ashleigh Banfield, former major cable network figures, while expanding its programming to other times of the day. The network launched in September 2020, promoting itself as the objective news source in a primetime cable news series dominated by opinion leaders and analysis.
“I want to build something special here, work with Dan, work with the team here,” Cuomo said. “We have great people who are really hungry to make a difference in a way that I think matters. I’ve decided I can’t go back to what people see as “the big game.” I don’t think I can change anything there. I think we need insurgent media. We need outlets that aren’t fringe and just trying to line their pockets… I’ll do the job. I go where the news is and I will try very hard to be fair.”
Cuomo was fired from CNN in December following new revelations about the extent to which he had counseled his brother.
During the interview, Abrams also asked Cuomo about allegations of sexual assault. Shortly after Cuomo’s exit, the New York Times reported that the allegations brought to the attention of CNN management concerned a sexual assault allegation by a younger colleague at another network. At the time, Cuomo denied the allegations and called his dismissal an “unfair dismissal.”
In the interview, Cuomo again denied the allegations.
Abrams asked, “Do you know who this woman is?”
“I think so,” Cuomo said.
“And none of that happened,” Abrams asked.
“None of that happened,” Cuomo said.
He also denied another allegation, detailed in The New York Times, that he was working to run a flattering segment about her employer on his CNN show, a gesture her lawyer claimed was an attempt to silence her to buy.
“It’s absolutely not true, but it’s up to her to explain,” Cuomo told Abrams.
But he said that the show got to her but that it was a “no-brainer” segment.
“Again, these are things that someone else will have to explain,” Cuomo added. “When you make the claim, it’s about how you feel and what you think… My feeling is it’s in the past. I will never be able to convince people one way or the other. I feed the story by commenting on it. I denied it and you’re trying to move on. A big aspect of our business will say that it’s accountability, it’s responsibility, but I don’t know if that’s always the case.”
Cuomo insisted CNN executives knew he was advising his brother. After this became known in May 2021, Cuomo apologized on his show. He said he did so because he found “many colleagues felt compromised”.
“I’ve offered to quit the job several times,” he said. “…I never thought that what I’m doing to help my brother would reflect badly on CNN.”
Abrams also pressed Cuomo on something he told viewers in August 2021: That he “never called the press about my brother’s situation.” But texts with Melissa DeRosa, a top aide to his brother, suggested Cuomo was manipulating media sources to gather “information” about additional stories about new allegations against his brother.
Abrams said, “They obviously did some scouting to find out what was out there.”
“I think it’s a distinction with a difference,” Cuomo replied, insisting he wasn’t trying to sway coverage.
“When I said I don’t do press calls, I meant ‘influence the story,'” Cuomo said.
Cuomo also offered a defense of his spring 2020 interviews with Andrew Cuomo, breaking the network policy over the conflict of interest. They were also conducted with the blessing of Jeff Zucker, then President of CNN.
He said the segments resonated with audiences in the early days of the Covid pandemic, along with his own experiences after contracting the virus. He said viewers thanked him for the segments at a time of great uncertainty about the virus and its impact.
“Obviously there was a conflict of interest and people understood that,” Cuomo said. “People understood that, the media should have understood it, they should have seen it for what it was.”
But he conceded that the segments were something “that would haunt me.”
SO FAR: In his first sit-down interview since being fired by CNN, Chris Cuomo denied trying to influence media coverage of his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, as he faced allegations of sexual harassment.
The revelations that Cuomo was acting as his brother’s informal advisor while still hosting his nightly CNN talk show eventually led to his termination in December.
In excerpts of an interview with NewsNation’s Dan Abrams, Cuomo said, “I have never contacted any media outlets that were covering my brother to try and influence their coverage. I talk to people in the media all the time.”
Abrams then remarked, “But you said, ‘I never called the press about my brother’s situation.’ You called the press about your brother’s situation.”
“But I think the distinction has a significant difference,” Cuomo replied. “The concern wouldn’t be that I called you and said, ‘What do you think is going on here?’ It’s me calling you and saying, “Hey, tonight on your segment, I hope you remember.”
The full interview is scheduled to air on Tuesday evening. NewsNation also said Cuomo will address allegations of sexual harassment, as well as other issues.
When he was fired, CNN released a statement, which said: “Based on the report we received regarding Chris’ conduct in his brother’s defense, we had reason to resign. When new allegations reached us this week, we took them seriously and saw no reason to delay immediate action.” The New York Times then reported that the new allegations were allegations of sexual assault by a younger colleague on another network acted. Through a spokesman, Cuomo denied the allegations and called his firing a “wrongful termination”.
In March, Cuomo’s attorneys filed a $125 million arbitration suit against CNN, alleging that senior CNN executives, including then-network president Jeff Zucker, knew of the support he was providing to his brother.
“I never lied, and there were no secrets.” Cuomo told Abrams.
Cuomo also defended his decision to counsel his brother.
“I love my brother. The rule in my family is very simple: Family. Problem. Walk. Other people have the luxury of judging allegations and situations. For me, it was about helping my brother in a tough way and doing it in a Doing it in a way that I didn’t think mattered. That’s what guided me.”
Zucker resigned from CNN in February, citing his failure to disclose a consensual relationship with a colleague. That executive, Allison Gollust, left the company later in the month after the company concluded an investigation into the Cuomo affair. According to WarnerMedia’s then-CEO Jason Kilar, the investigation found violations of company policies by Cuomo, Gollust, and Zucker. Gollust worked briefly for Andrew Cuomo before joining CNN. She described the circumstances surrounding her exit as “an attempt to get even with me and change the media narrative after her disastrous handling of the past two weeks.”
Chris Cuomo launched a new podcast series last week.