Chris Cuomo Wants WarnerMedia, CNN to Pay Him $125 Million in Damages

Chris Cuomo
Jeremy Freeman

Chris Cuomo wants CNN parent WarnerMedia to keep paying him even though he no longer works there.

The former CNN primetime anchor alleged in an arbitration filing Wednesday that his career has suffered damages in excess of $125 million, and suggested CNN had allowed several of his one-time colleagues to violate standards and practices in a bid to keep viewership — just as it did with him. The anchor also said his firing by CNN late last year cost him nearly $15 million in salary that he would have earned if he had served out his last contract.

In the filing, Cuomo’s attorneys argued that CNN favorites like Don Lemon and Jake Tapper, as well as analyst Jeffrey Toobin, had potentially violated the news outlet’s practices over the years, but were not punished for doing so.  “As long as CNN’s ratings would not be hurt, [former CNN Worldwide President Jeff] Zucker and [former CNN Chief Marketing Officer Allison] Gollust were more than willing to overlook major transgressions by CNN personalities,” Cuomo’s filing alleges, “or even engage in blatant misconduct themselves.”

CNN declined to comment.

Cuomo and CNN parted ways last year after the anchor was caught up in the sexual-harassment scandal that engulfed his brother, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo. The younger Cuomo was found by CNN to be aiding his brother’s team of officials, and after initially being suspended, was ousted. Cuomo maintains that CNN knew of the counsel he was offering his sibling.

In February,  the move to separate CNN from the anchor had surprising consequences: Zucker resigned after failing to disclose a personal relationship with Gollust, and Gollust left the company within weeks amid claims — which she has denied — that she worked too closely with the governor’s office and pressed producers on the kinds of questions they should ask. Their abrupt exits roiled the WarnerMedia news outlet just weeks before it is to be taken over by Discovery, which is acquiring WarnerMedia from AT&T.

A spokesman for Zucker and Gollust said the former CNN executives declined to comment. In the past, they have denied similar allegations.

The filing brings up reports of behavior by Lemon, Tapper and Toobin, noting that the two anchors were not disciplined for ways they interacted with sources that drew allegations and criticism, nor was Toobin disciplined for an off-camera incident in which he exposed himself to co-workers at The New Yorker.

Whether Cuomo’s claims will bear any fruit remains guesswork at best. He was not paid out severance due to the circumstances around his firing, which CNN executives maintained involved a deeper level of involvement with his brother’s defense efforts than they had been led to believe. Cuomo’s team asserts otherwise. “Cuomo fully complied with CNN’s standards and practices, including by keeping CNN executives apprised of his actions at all times,” the arbitration filing says. “[CNN’s parent unit] Turner’s unjustifiable termination of Cuomo reflects nothing more than an apparent rush to judgement and caving to uninformed public and internal pressure that was based on speculation and assumption rather than facts and evidence.”

Indeed, Cuomo’s arbitration filing alleges Zucker and Gollust were fine with the joint appearances by the Cuomo brothers until after the former governor was implicated by claims of sexual harassment. Until that time, the filing says, “CNN was more than happy to benefit from the connection between the governor and CNN’s most popular news anchor.”