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According to Ross, Cuomo — who now anchors the 9 p.m. hour on CNN — engaged in the inappropriate behavior at a 2005 work party in front of their ABC colleagues and Ross’ husband.
“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,” Ross 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.”
Ross was Cuomo’s executive producer at Primetime Live, but had left that role and was serving as the producer of an entertainment special at the time of the incident.
Cuomo sent an email apology a short time later with the subject line, “now that i think of it … i am ashamed …” in which he apologized first to Ross’ “very good and noble” husband before adding, “and I apologize to you as well, for even putting you in such a position …”
Cuomo also wrote in the email to Ross that “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 …”
Ross added 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.”
Cuomo gave a statement to Ross for her column: “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.”
CNN had not responded to a request for comment from The Hollywood Reporter as of writing.
The column comes in the wake of the CNN anchor playing an active role in defending his older brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, from claims of sexual harassment.
In May, Cuomo and CNN acknowledged that the anchor had participated in strategy calls with his brother and his brother’s advisers, as they sought to push back against the harassment claims. Cuomo went on-air at CNN that evening and apologized, saying, “It was a mistake, because I put my colleagues here, who I believe are the best in the business, in a bad spot. I never intended for that, I would never intend for that, and I’m sorry for that.”
The report from New York Attorney General Letitia James, however, also presented evidence that the CNN anchor was involved in crafting his brother’s initial statement responding to the allegations, a statement that CNN itself would cover.
After his brother’s resignation, Chris Cuomo said that he was one of the people urging him to step aside.
“I’m not an adviser. I’m a brother. I wasn’t in control of anything, I was there to listen, and offer my take,” he added. “My advice to my brother was simple and consistent: Own what you did, tell people what you will do to be better, be contrite, and finally accept that it doesn’t matter what you intended. What matters is how your actions and words were perceived.”
Ross had previously written in 2016 that she was harassed by former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes when she was in talks to join NBC’s The Tomorrow Show, which Ailes was then running. She also wrote that she was “forced out” of CBS’ The Early Show in 2008 after her managing was criticized and she became tabloid fodder for Page Six, though she characterizes CBS as having a “toxic work environment.” Ross had turned around the ratings at ABC’s Good Morning America while at ABC, in addition to serving as the executive producer of Primetime Live.
In her Times column, Ross, writes that “I have no grudge against Mr. Cuomo; I’m not looking for him to lose his job.”
“I’m not asking for Mr. Cuomo to become the next casualty in this continuing terrible story,” she writes. “I hope he stays at CNN forever if he chooses. 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.”
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