Shelley Ross, a former TV news producer at ABC and CBS, recounted the time CNN host Chris Cuomo sexually harassed her and then apologized first to her husband, in an op-ed for The New York Times.
The incident took place in 2005, at a going-away party for a colleague of both Ross’ and Cuomo’s at ABC. While Ross had previously served as Cuomo’s boss on the ABC show, Primetime Live, Ross had since moved to a different role in the company. She claimed that when Cuomo entered the 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.”
While he did this, Ross claimed, Cuomo said, “I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss.”
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Ross said she rebuffed Cuomo, telling him, “No you can’t.” She said she then pushed him away and stepped back to reveal her husband had seen the whole thing. Ross said she and her husband left the party soon after.
Ross also provided a copy of the apology note Cuomo sent about an hour after the incident. In it, Cuomo said first, “as a husband I can empathize with not liking to see my wife patted as such. So pass along my apology to your very good and noble husband,” before finally apologizing to Ross directly: “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.”
A rep for Cuomo, responding to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment, pointed to the statement Cuomo gave to The 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 appears to have alluded to this incident with Cuomo in a piece for The Daily Beast in 2017, which was primarily about the inappropriate advances a pre-Fox News Roger Ailes made while interviewing her for a job at NBC in 1981. Ross also discussed other instances of sexual harassment she experienced, witnessed, heard about or covered while in TV news, including one where a “member of the Primetime [Live] team… gave me a big bear hug, his right hand lowering to grab and squeeze the right half of my buttocks.” (Cuomo is not named in the piece but Ross recounts the same series of events for The Daily Beast — down to the apology primarily addressed to her husband — that she does in The Times.)
As Ross explained at the top of her Times op-ed, she was prompted to share her story about Cuomo publicly after she saw a photo of the TV host wearing a a T-shirt with the word “Truth” on it not long after his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, had resigned under a deluge of sexual misconduct allegations. Chris Cuomo has also faced sharp criticism, but no professional consequences, for reportedly helping his brother figure out how to respond to the allegations against him.
Ross said she harbored “no grudge against Mr. Cuomo” and she was “not looking for him to lose his job.” Instead, she wrote, she wanted to share her story as “an opportunity for him and his employer to show what accountability can look like in the #MeToo era.”
Ross offered some thoughts on what that might look like at the end of her piece, writing: “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. 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.”
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