Simply after CNN chief Jeff Zucker fired Chris Cuomo, Zucker defined that Cuomo’s journalistic sin — advising brother Andrew, New York’s besieged governor, on a sexual-harassment scandal — had been so severe, Jeff had no selection however to ax his onetime good friend and top-rated anchor.
Simply to show Zucker’s level, not solely would the previous community star endure the ignominy of being out of a job, Chris wouldn’t obtain a penny from his four-year, $20 million contract.
The severity of the sentence incensed Chris, who by way of his attorneys let the community know he was able to go to conflict with Zucker. They mentioned Chris had good ammo to battle with, sparking one of many most tawdry spectacles in latest reminiscence to hit a enterprise identified for its tawdriness. Now it was Zucker strolling the plank, ousted beneath the pretense that he broke firm guidelines by having an undisclosed affair with an underling.
The mud on the Chris Cuomo-Jeff Zucker imbroglio is much from settled, I’m informed by folks concerned within the matter. Chris wants his money and Zucker additionally is aware of stuff about Chris, if and when push involves shove. When you like your media-business laundry soiled, get your popcorn prepared; a few of the largest gamers in Huge Media may have loads of egg on their faces as this one performs out.
Wall Avenue is watching
The spectacle goes past Huge Broadcaster schadenfreude; it additionally has main implications for Wall Avenue. Discovery Inc., and its very ready chief, David Zaslav, in the meantime, are caught with a multitude. The federal government has simply authorized the $43 billion spinout of AT&T’s WarnerMedia that features CNN into a brand new firm run by Zas and Discovery.
When the deal was introduced in Might of final yr, it seemed like a good suggestion since CNN got significant ratings traction through the Trump administration because the loyal opposition to the risky president.
However with Trump out, CNN’s ratings crashed and are nonetheless sliding, a deep decline that has develop into much more perilous with Zucker gone and CNN’s mission unsure.
Zaslav, in the meantime, is claimed to be fearful about CNN’s backside line for apparent — and a few not so apparent — causes. Sure, there are these declining rankings. However earlier than he was bounced, Zucker went on a hiring spree to assist and broaden CNN’s new streaming product, CNN+. Community insiders say Zas is trying to considerably reduce Zucker’s streaming imaginative and prescient to save cash — one thing Discovery received’t deny to me.
And as Cuomo preps arbitration to recoup his $20 million contract, extract an apology from CNN and possibly extra (The Post’s Emily Smith says he needs $60 million for his ache and struggling), count on the soiled laundry to maintain coming. Zas’s share worth will definitely really feel the ache amid the stain on his model.
Full disclosure: I do know all of the gamers concerned on this drama and don’t have any horse within the race. I like Cuomo and Zaslav. I nominally labored for Zucker once I was at CNBC and he ran NBC. He’s a gifted programmer with some blind spots that clearly got here into play in this mess. He tends to be loyal one second and backstabbing the following, typically unnecessarily alienating folks to suit his wants in the intervening time. Cuomo, a voluble TV personality in his personal proper, witnessed that duality firsthand.
Zucker milked Chris’s relationship with Andrew, who had grew to become a COVID rock star for his early televised pandemic briefings that stuffed the void of management from Washington and received him an Emmy earlier than his ignominious fall.
Trying again, Andrew rarely appeared on different networks throughout these days and never simply because Chris was his brother. Zucker and Andrew had been tight, I’m informed. Zucker’s head of selling and PR, Allison Gollust had been a flack for the governor.
Nobody appeared to care about all these conflicts that went principally undisclosed even amid these glib, journalistically questionable however ratings-rich puff-piece interviews between the brothers throughout COVID’s early days. In reality, Zucker & Co defended them as a public service.
That’s till Andrew’s star began to fade. His ill-fated resolution to pressure nursing properties to accept COVID patients started his descent. The sexual-harassment scandal that adopted value him the governorship.
Chris clearly needed to prevent Andrew’s demise as any brother would. Zucker initially condoned Chris’s habits for causes he hasn’t actually defined. That ended when Andrew was toast and Zucker mentioned new proof emerged from a state AG report. Chris was advising Andrew much more than Zucker mentioned he knew. Zucker fired Chris for allegedly retaining him at nighttime.
The mess would get messier when Chris alerted CNN he was planning an arbitration declare in opposition to the community. The timing was scary for anybody with an curiosity in seeing the Discovery-WarnerMedia deal occur: Chris’s attorneys needed to take Zucker’s deposition but in addition the deposition of Gollust as the federal government was finding out the transaction’s deserves and legality.
The attorneys and bankers went into freakout mode, I’m informed. Apparently not solely had been Zucker and Gollust a administration tag workforce inside CNN, they had been additionally an merchandise. The workplace romance was well-known inside CNN however not in DC. A leak may harm the deal if CNN & Co. didn’t management the narrative. That’s when this longtime consensual romance was spun out of CNN as one thing falling tangentially throughout the scope of #MeToo — Zuck broke company rules as a result of he didn’t disclose that he playing around with a subordinate and he was gone as nicely.
Did Chris Cuomo leak the affair? He has informed his former colleagues he didn’t. He additionally informed them he believes the actual cause Zucker is out has much less to do with him, or the consensual affair, and probably all the things to do with CNN’s dealings with Andrew Cuomo and what Chris would possibly expose throughout litigation.
Zucker and Gollust, Chris has mentioned, took the lead in wooing Andrew to do all these softball interviews Chris anchored. Chris additionally mentioned if he stepped over the road advising Andrew, they did as nicely. They grew to become unofficial advisers of Andrew within the early days of his COVID response.
It’s a fantastic story that can probably hold getting higher for individuals who wish to see media-types squirm and stock prices plummet. All courtesy of “The Most Trusted Identify in Information.”
Media reps for Gollust and Zucker, CNN and Discovery haven’t returned requires remark. A rep for Chris Cuomo had no remark.