CNN anchor Chris Cuomo has become the latest member of his family to face sexual harassment allegations.
In a New York Times op-ed, Shelley Ross, a former ABC executive producer accused the younger Cuomo of sexually harassing her at a 2005 work party at a Manhattan bar in front of her co-workers and husband.
It is alleged that Cuomo grabbed her on her behind during the incident, calling it “a hearty greeting.”
According to Ross, Cuomo later sent an email following the incident saying that he was “ashamed,” and sought to distance himself from the matter.
“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,” Ross, who was working as an executive producer of an ABC entertainment program at the time, but was previously Cuomo’s boss on “Primetime Live,” said.
“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.”
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Ross added that she did not believe his actions were “sexual in nature” but rather a “form of sexual harassment” where he attempted to “diminish and belittle his female former boss.”
“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.”
In the Times piece, Cuomo allegedly then said that “I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss.”
“It happened 16 years ago and it was not sexual in nature,” Cuomo stated. “As Shelley acknowledges, our interaction was not sexual in nature. It happened in a public setting when she was a top executive at ABC.
“I apologized to her then, and I meant it.”
In his apology email, titled “Now that I think of it… I am ashamed,” Cuomo compared his actions to actor Christian Slater, who was arrested a month prior to the incident for allegedly inappropriately touching a woman.
“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…
“So pass along my apology to your very good and noble husband...and I apologize to you as well, for even putting you in such a position…,” he continued.
“(The) next time, I will remember the lesson, no matter how happy I am to see you…”
Despite the apology, Ross said that she believed that it was a way for the CNN anchor to skirt responsibility.
“Mr. Cuomo may say this is a sincere apology,” she stated. “I've always seen it as an attempt to provide himself with legal and moral coverage to evade accountability.”
Ross isn’t calling for Cuomo’s head - or job - but said that she hopes he can use his position at CNN to "journalistically repent.”
“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. 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," she wrote.
"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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