A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Chris Cuomo’s termination by CNN is the latest example of upheaval in television news.
The 7pm Eastern hour on Fox News has been home to rotating hosts for nearly an entire year. The 11pm hour on MSNBC will soon need a new host due to Brian Williams’ exit. Early next year MSNBC’s 9pm hour will also need a new host, since Rachel Maddow is stepping back from her daily duties. And now CNN’s 9pm hour is suddenly vacant, as well.
This is a seriously turbulent time for the top players in cable news — and that’s even before factoring in business model pressures and streaming wars. Now, here’s the latest on Cuomo…
The day-by-day timeline
Saturday’s termination of Chris Cuomo understandably caught many people off guard. On Sunday’s “Reliable,” I spent six minutes laying out the day-to-day timeline, from Monday’s document dump through Saturday’s decision. Key details: CNN retained the law firm Cravath to review the Cuomo-related documents. Cravath’s findings were submitted on Friday and were sufficient for CNN to fire Cuomo.
During that legal review, Debra Katz, an attorney who specializes in harassment and discrimination cases, contacted CNN on behalf of an anonymous client who alleged “serious sexual misconduct” years ago, back when Cuomo worked at ABC. This complaint was the “additional information” that CNN referenced when it said Cuomo was terminated Saturday night.
“Based on the report we received regarding Chris’s conduct with his brother’s defense, we had cause to terminate,” a CNN spokesperson said. “When new allegations came to us this week, we took them seriously, and saw no reason to delay taking immediate action.”
The conclusion from my reporting: This was a case of death-by-a-thousand-cuts. Cuomo was continually causing headaches for management and for CNN writ large. And the headaches were certain to continue…
Any more info on the misconduct allegation?
In short, no, not yet. But reporters at The New York Times and other outlets have pursued tips about Cuomo in the past, and the info about Katz’s client was first reported by the NYT late Saturday. Katz did not respond to my requests for comment on Sunday. A spokesperson for Cuomo said, “these apparently anonymous allegations are not true.”
Jodi Kantor, who co-bylined the NYT reporting, observed that “this means that both Cuomo brothers have lost their positions in the wake of #metoo accusations…”
Media analysts take stock
On Sunday’s “Reliable,” I asked Mara Schiavocampo, Sara Fischer, and David Zurawik to offer analysis about CNN’s decision and the fallout. The prevailing question, Zurawik said, should be, “Who do you serve?” Television hosts “should be serving the public,” he said. “That oftentimes puts you at odds with people in power.”
Fischer raised questions about “why CNN delayed taking action.” But Schiavocampo said CNN’s decision to fire Cuomo may reinforce “the public’s trust in the media, because they did make the right call on such a clear-cut case here.” Watch part one and part two of the conversation on CNN.com…
Latest updates, plus this week’s programming plan
— CNN president Jeff Zucker “was taken by surprise by the attorney general’s report, and felt Mr. Cuomo misled him,” the WSJ’s Ben Mullin and Joe Flint report, citing sources…
— Cuomo said in a statement that he was disappointed by the outcome but proud of his staff and “the work we did as CNN’s #1 show…”
— The producers and staffers of “Cuomo Prime Time” will remain in place and will work on CNN’s 9pm ET hour…
— As previously announced, Cuomo’s regular substitute Michael Smerconish will helm the 9pm hour this week. On TV listings the hour is titled “CNN Tonight…”
— “The network has no immediate plans for a permanent replacement,” the LAT’s Stephen Battaglio reported…
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