CNN internal investigation finds ‘violations of Company policies’ by Zucker, Cuomo
An internal investigation has found former CNN President Jeff Zucker, anchor Chris Cuomo and top marketing executive Allison Gollust violated company policies while with the network.
Gollust resigned from the network following the conclusion of the internal investigation, Jason Kilar, CEO of WarnerMedia, the network’s parent company, wrote in a memo to employees on Tuesday evening.
Zucker resigned last month after revealing to investigators that he had been having a sexual relationship with Gollust, a longtime colleague, and did not report it to the company. Zucker fired Cuomo late last year for misleading top executives at the network about his contacts with journalists covering allegations of sexual harassment against his brother, the former governor of New York.
All three —Zucker, Gollust and Cuomo — violated CNN’s companies policies, Kilar wrote, including CNN’s News Standards and Practices.
“Based on interviews of more than 40 individuals and a review of over 100,000 texts and emails, the investigation found violations of company policies, including CNN’s news standards and practices,” he said. “I realize this news is troubling, disappointing and frankly painful to read. These are valid feelings that many of you have. We have the highest standards of journalistic integrity and those rules must apply to everyone equally.”
Kilar did not provide specifics about which policies the three high-profile employees violated or when.
In a message of her own to CNN staff, Gollust said, “WarnerMedia’s statement tonight is an attempt to retaliate against me and change the media narrative in the wake of their disastrous handling of the last two weeks.”
Gollust said in a messages to close colleagues obtained by Puck News that executives at WarnerMedia had “assured” her she could inform staffers of her departure on Tuesday night.
“Unfortunately, they jumped the gun, breaking their promise,” she wrote. “I am sorry you had to learn this from someone other than me.”
WarnerMedia declined comment on Gollust’s allegation of retaliation, Puck reported.
Kilar’s message came at virtually the same time The New York Times published a wide-ranging account of Zucker’s, Gollust’s and Cuomo’s personal and professional relationships.
The report paints a picture of a Zucker’s quick downfall following Cuomo’s involvement in his brother’s scandal and accusations of sexual misconduct against the anchor himself.
Zucker had support among much of the talent at CNN, and several top anchors at the network have appealed directly to WarnerMedia and expressed frustration and anger about its decision to oust the company’s top boss.
The Times reported on Tuesday that Debra Katz, a prominent attorney who is also representing a woman who has accused the former governor of misconduct, informed CNN of a different client with an allegation of sexual misconduct against Cuomo.
Katz, in her letter, told CNN that Cuomo had contacted the woman during the height of the “Me Too” movement that saw prominent powerful men in media such as Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer hit with allegations of misconduct.
Cuomo, Katz said in her letter, proposed arranging a CNN segment about the company where she worked doing public relations, the Times reported.
“After years without any substantive communication from Mr. Cuomo whatsoever, Ms. Doe suspected he was concerned about her coming forward publicly with her allegations and wanted to use the proposed segment as an opportunity to ‘test the waters’ and discourage her from going on the record about his sexual misconduct,” Katz wrote.
Cuomo, through a spokesperson, has denied allegations of sexual misconduct.
Zucker’s ouster also came as Cuomo reportedly seeks a hefty separation package the former anchor says he is owed. The anchor’s legal team, which denied allegations of sexual harassment made in a letter to CNN last year, reportedly raised issues with Zucker and Gollust’s relationship as part of their negotiations.
It also comes as at a time of sliding ratings for the cable news channel and an upcoming merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery.
“We have the highest standards for journalistic integrity at CNN and those rules must apply to everyone equally,” Kilar wrote. “Given the information provided to me in the investigation, I strongly believe we have taken the right actions and the right decisions have been made.”