A former executive producer at ABC News has come forward accusing Chris Cuomo of sexually harassing her in 2005, just after she had left her job as the news anchor’s boss. In a New York Times op-ed, Shelley Ross, who worked as the producer of Primetime in 2004 when Cuomo was a contributing correspondent, recalled an incident at a colleague’s going-away party at a New York bar. According to Ross’s account, Cuomo greeted her with a hug, during which he squeezed her behind and said, “I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss.” She writes that she pushed him away, saying, “No, you can’t,” at which point Cuomo saw that Ross’s husband had seen the encounter.
Perhaps the most unsettling part of Ross’ story is the email Cuomo decided to follow up with in which he apologized for his behavior first and foremost to Ross’s husband — which would seem to suggest a lot about how he views women. He also attempted to differentiate his behavior from Christian Slater, who had been arrested earlier that year for drunkenly groping a woman in the street. The email, which Ross provides a screenshot of, bears the subject line “now that i think of it…i am ashamed…” It continues:
though my hearty greeting was a function of being glad to see you……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…next time, i will remember the lesson, no matter how happy i am to see you…
The allegation against Cuomo comes after months of reports of sexual harassment by his brother, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, which ultimately led to his resignation in August. Earlier this year, Chris announced on his CNN show that he would not be covering his brother’s sexual harassment scandal, presumably because of a conflict of interest, though in May, Chris apologized publicly for participating in shaping his brother’s defense (he allegedly advised that Andrew not resign but “express contrition”). Chris is one of many powerful people who appears to have enabled and protected his brother’s reputation, including the leadership of Time’s Up — an organization that was founded to support victims of sexual abuse and harassment.
Ross wrote that she didn’t see Cuomo’s actions as sexual, characterizing the incident as “a hostile act meant to diminish and belittle his female former boss in front of the staff.” Cuomo responded to a request for comment from the Times, saying, “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.”