Chris Cuomo's Former Boss Says He Sexually Harassed Her at a Party in 2005, Calls for 'Accountability'
By Paige Gawley
Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images
Chris Cuomo's former boss has accused him of sexual harassment. In an op-ed for The New York Times, Shelley Ross claims that the CNN anchor sexually harassed her at a colleague's going away party in 2005.
Ross, who was Cuomo's boss at ABC News nearly two decades ago, writes that the alleged incident took place shortly after her gig as the executive producer at Primetime Live, on which Cuomo was a co-anchor, had ended.
ET has reached out to Cuomo, CNN and ABC News for comment.
"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 writes. "... '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."
One hour later, Ross alleges, Cuomo sent her an email with the subject line, "Now that I think of it… I am ashamed." In the email, Ross claims, Cuomo "apologized first" to her "very good and noble husband" and then to Ross herself for "even putting you in such a position."
"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?" Ross writes. "... 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 notes that she "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," she writes.
In a comment to the Times, Cuomo says, "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 writes that she has "no grudge" against Cuomo and is "not looking for him to lose his job," but instead wants "for him and his employer to show what accountability can look like in the MeToo era."
"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 writes, before discussing another part of his 2005 email.
"At one point in his 2005 email to me, he referred to how 'Christian Slater got arrested for a (kind of) similar act (though borne of an alleged negative intent, unlike my own),'" Ross writes. "Mr. Slater was arrested after a woman reported that he had grabbed her buttocks as she walked down the street. Police charged him with third-degree sexual abuse. (The charges were dropped.)"
"Mr. Cuomo, a former lawyer, appeared to use his short apology to legally differentiate the two incidents. He suggested Mr. Slater had 'negative intent' while he, Mr. Cuomo, did not," she continues. "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."
As for what she'd like to see happen next, Ross writes that she'd "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."
"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," she writes. "... 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."