Shelley Ross, a top former ABC executive producer, accused CNN anchor Chris Cuomo of grabbing her butt in front of her husband at a party in 2005, after she’d been his boss when he worked on ‘Primetime Live.’
Shelley Ross reports that CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, 51, grabbed her buttock and joked about it at a business party in 2005, when they were both working at ABC News. Ross spoke out about this incident in an op-ed for The New York Times on Friday September 24, and recalls that she immediately pushed back against the now-CNN anchor’s behavior. She recounts that Cuomo told her, “‘I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss,'” and described his tone as a “kind of cocky arrogance,” before she spoke up against him. “‘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,” Shelley wrote in the op-ed, saying she left shortly after. The pair knew each other well, because she’d been his executive producer at Primetime Live, and Cuomo was one of the show’s segment-anchors, before the incident.
The executive producer included an alleged email from Cuomo, received an hour after the incident, where he apologized and expressed regret. “[N]ow that I think of it… [I] am ashamed,” the subject line said. The anchor asked Ross to “pass my apology along to your very good and noble husband,” and extended the same to her. “[I] apologize to you as well, for even putting you in such a postition [sic],” he wrote.
Despite the apology, Ross questioned the reasoning behind sending it. “Was he ashamed of what he did, or was he embarrassed because my husband saw it?” she wrote. “Mr. Cuomo may say this is a sincere apology. I’ve always seen it as an attempt to provide himself with legal and moral coverage to evade accountability.” The former executive producer also wondered about the anchor’s motives in grabbing her rear end. “I 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,” she wrote.
In a new statement to The Times in response to the op-ed, Cuomo insisted that there wasn’t any sexual intention behind his action and that his apology was sincere. “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,” he told The Times. When contacted for comment by HollywoodLife, a press contact for CNN pointed to the same statement.
Ross doesn’t want Cuomo to get fired now, and she writes that she holds “no grudge” against him, but she did urge the anchor to have accountability, especially after the anchor was named as an advisor to his brother former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, when he faced the recent sexual harassment allegations that led to his resignation on August 10. The anchor had come under fire, shortly after his brother was accused of sexual harassment, and he was found to have served as an advisor to the governor, who later resigned amid the accusations. He was also criticized for not covering the governor’s sexual harassment allegations on his CNN program.
Ross proposed that Cuomo lead a new show for CNN that examines closely workplace sexual harassment. “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.