Chris Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment by his former boss.
Veteran TV journalist and former ABC executive producer Shelley Ross accused Cuomo of harassing her at a 2005 party while she was with her husband and coworkers, claiming the TV personality later called his actions a "hearty greeting."
Ross detailed the alleged incident in a New York Times op-ed — published Friday, September 24 — explaining Cuomo crossed the line when the group was out at a bar. At the time, Ross worked as the executive producer of an ABC entertainment program but she was previously Cuomo's boss at ABC’s Primetime Live.
“I was at the party with my husband, who sat behind me on an ottoman sipping his Diet Coke as I spoke with work friends. 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,” Ross recalled.
"’I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss,” she claimed Cuomo said with a cocky arrogance, to which Ross replied: “No you can’t." Ross pushed Cuomo off of her and took a step back, revealing her husband, who just witnessed the entire encounter, she explained. "We quickly left."
Cuomo seemed to realize his inappropriate actions because he sent Ross an email in the aftermath. Dated June 1, 2005, the brother of former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo — who resigned after his own sexual harassment scandal — sent Ross an email with the subject titled: “Now that I think of it… I am ashamed.”
According to Ross, Cuomo compared his behavior to Heathers actor Christian Slater, who had been arrested that May for grabbing a woman's butt on a New York City street. The charges against Slater were later dropped.
“Though my hearty greeting was a function of being glad to see you… Christian Slater got arrested for a (kind of) similar act (though borne of an alleged negative intent, unlike my own)… and as a husband I can empathize with not liking to see my wife patted as such,” Cuomo wrote, per Ross, before asking his former boss to apologize to her husband on his behalf.
“So pass along my apology to your very good and noble husband… and I apologize to you as well, for ever putting you in such a position," he reportedly continued. “Next time, I will remember the lesson, no matter how happy I am to see you."
In Ross' op-ed, she questioned whether Cuomo was truly "ashamed" of his actions or only because he got caught by her husband. She also pointed out Cuomo tried to “legally differentiate” his actions to that of Slater.
“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,” Ross admitted, noting she "never thought that Mr Cuomo’s behavior was sexual in nature."
However, Ross explained that "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.”
Ross insisted she didn't want Cuomo to lose his job over the incident, but declared he be held accountable for his actions in the wake of his brother's scandal. “If Mr Cuomo and CNN management don’t think he crossed a serious line, one that warrants consequences, I know he crossed a line with me,” Ross said.
Cuomo addressed the allegations in a statement, per the outlet, saying: “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.”