ALBANY – CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was accused of sexual harassment Friday by a former female manager at ABC News — a month after his older brother Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned for sexual harassing women aides.
In an op-ed in the New York Times, Shelley Ross, a former executive producer at ABC and CBS, wrote that the younger Cuomo grabbed her buttocks at a going-away party for a colleague at a Manhattan bar in 2005.
“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,” she wrote.
She said he commented: “I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss.”
And she said she responded, “No you can’t” and pushed him away with her husband at her side.
Soon after, Ross wrote, she received the email from Cuomo about being “ashamed,” and he apologized to my ‘”very good and noble husband’ and then to me for ‘even putting you in such a position.'”
Ross said she has always viewed the apology “an attempt to provide himself with legal and moral coverage to evade accountability.”
The column was titled: “Chris Cuomo Sexually Harassed Me. I Hope He’ll Use His Power to Make Change”.
In a statement to the Times, Cuomo, 51, said Thursday night, “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.”
The sexual harassment allegations are the first publicly against the high-profile broadcaster and comes after he became embroiled in the scandal that led to Andrew Cuomo’s resignation Aug. 24.
Ross wrote that she was not looking to see Cuomo fired, but, “rather, this is an opportunity for him and his employer to show what accountability can look like in the #MeToo era.”
She said she came forward after being struck by how Cuomo handled his brother’s troubles and after he was seen wearing a “Truth” shirt soon after the governor resigned.
“For me, his statement of profound concern about sexual harassment and his “Truth” T-shirt were provocations in this era of personal accountability,” Ross wrote.
An investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James interviewed Chris because he had privately counseled his brother in calls with the governor’s top aides on how to initially fight the sexual harassment allegations against him.
In May, the younger Cuomo acknowledged on air that he had talked to his brother and members of his staff in an advisory capacity.
CNN said Chris Cuomo should not have done so because of his role as a journalist, and he later apologized on the air for it.
Soon after Cuomo announced his resignation, Chris Cuomo said on the air that his brother did the right thing and that he encouraged him to do so.
“I’m not an adviser. I’m a brother,” he said Aug. 16.
“I was there to listen and offer my take. And my advice to my brother was simple and consistent: Own what you did. Tell people what you can do to be better. Be contrite. And finally, accept that it doesn’t matter what you intended. What matters is how your actions and words were perceived.”
Lindsey Boylan, a former aide to the governor who accused him of sexually inappropriate comments and groping, praised Ross for telling her story.
“Thank you Shelley Ross. Your focus on accountability is exactly right,” she wrote on Twitter. “@ChrisCuomo will you hold yourself accountable?”
More:CNN’s Chris Cuomo reveals he urged brother Andrew to resign: ‘I’m not an advisor, I’m a brother’
More:Why Chris Cuomo says he can’t cover his NY governor brother Andrew on CNN amid scandals
Joseph Spector is the Government and Politics Editor for the USA TODAY Network’s Atlantic Group, overseeing coverage in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. He can be reached at JSPECTOR@Gannett.com or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany
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