A trove of explosive texts and emails showing that Chris Cuomo secretly scrambled to defend his ex-governor brother from sexual harassment allegations may get him canned for good, sources told The Post.
CNN boss Jeff Zucker was shocked and angry when he saw subpoenaed records released Monday by state Attorney General Letitia James that revealed Chris Cuomo used his journalistic connections and resources to get advance information on damaging reports about his older brother, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, according to insiders.
Zucker suspended the “Cuomo Prime Time” anchor indefinitely on Tuesday, and sources inside CNN are now saying it’s doubtful whether Cuomo can come back.
“It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Zucker loved Chris, but the emails and texts did it,” said a source.
While Chris Cuomo, 51, admitted to his boss he was trying to help his 63-year-old brother, he didn’t fess up to the full extent of it or the degree to which it was documented, the source noted.
“His biggest crime was he lied to Zucker,” the source said. “He didn’t own up to it. There’s nothing worse than an email or text. It’s in writing.”
Inside CNN, many employees are still surprised that Cuomo has been sidelined — partly because Zucker has stood steadfastly by the anchor since a May report by the Washington Post revealed he took part in behind-the-scenes strategy sessions with his brother’s top aides and advisers.
This time things felt different, sources said, citing a tight-lipped Zucker. On Wednesday, during CNN’s editorial morning meeting the exec said of Cuomo’s suspension, “I felt it was the appropriate course of action. We will keep you posted on how we deal with programming going forward.”
CNN said in a Wednesday statement that the documents in the AG’s report “raise serious questions.” They include text exchanges between Cuomo and his brother’s then-top adviser Melissa DeRosa about rumors of additional accusers coming forward against the former governor.
“When Chris admitted to us that he had offered advice to his brother’s staff, he broke our rules and we acknowledged that publicly,” the network said in a statement. “But we also appreciated the unique position he was in and understood his need to put family first and job second. However, these documents point to a greater level of involvement in his brother’s efforts than we previously knew. As a result, we have suspended Chris indefinitely, pending further evaluation.”
Cuomo’s colleague Brian Stelter, who hosts CNN’s Sunday morning show “Reliable Sources,” told CNN’s “New Day” host John Berman Wednesday that it is “possible” that the embattled prime time host could be back on the air as soon as January.
“Cuomo is on the bench for now,” Stelter told Berman. “We’re heading into a holiday season. I think it’s possible he will be on the bench for several weeks. It’s possible he’ll be back in January.”
CNN, however, reiterated Wednesday that the suspension is “indefinite,” with a rep telling Fox News: “is no end date. It will remain that way until after a review. The statement couldn’t be any more clear.”
According to the Daily Beast, there has been outcry to act from several high-profile CNN journalists including Jake Tapper, who reportedly pressed Zucker to yank Cuomo. But one source noted that Tapper, who hosts “The Lead” a 4pm-6pm weekday show, also appears to be gunning for Cuomo’s 9pm slot. The source noted that Stelter also “wants the job.”
Of the two Tapper, who has more political news reporting chops, is viewed as the frontrunner. Don Lemon, who hosts CNN’s 10 pm show “CNN with Don Lemon,” is also a top contender, sources said.
Either way, a new host could help dig Cuomo’s show out of its third-place rut.
“I don’t see how he survives this,” a source said, citing the damning details in the AG’s report. “The buzz inside CNN is it’s over.”
An embarrassing situation unfolded on Tuesday as the network’s future corporate boss David Zaslav visited CNN headquarters in New York. Zaslav, who helms Discovery, is slated to become CEO of a merged Discovery and CNN parent WarnerMedia early next year. A rep for Zaslav called the visit a “meet and greet” but did not provide any further details.
“When you’ve got a new boss, you’re going to clean up a situation like this quickly,” the source said.