Shelley Ross, a former executive producer at ABC News in a guest essay for the New York Times, alleged that the CNN host squeezed the cheek of her buttock without her permission in 2005. She also produced an email where Chris Cuomo appeared to admit to the incident and apologize for his behavior.
Ross said the incident occurred at a 2005 work party in front of her husband and co-workers. She said Cuomo later called it a “hearty greeting.”
“At the time, I was the executive producer of an ABC entertainment special, but I was Mr. Cuomo’s executive producer at ‘Primetime Live’ just before that.
“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 said Cuomo told her, “I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss” and did it “with a kind of cocky arrogance.” The former producer said she told him he couldn’t, pushed him off her and revealed her husband was right behind her, and they quickly left the party, which was celebrating an ABC colleague’s departure.
In the email dated June 1, 2005, with the subject title: “Now that I think of it … I am ashamed”, Cuomo said he was “ashamed” but quickly tried to show his actions were different from actor Christian Slater who was accused and arrested for doing same to a stranger on the street.
The email read;
“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.
“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.
“Next time, I will remember the lesson, no matter how happy I am to see you.”
Ross, in her op-ed, questioned whether Cuomo was ashamed because of his actions or only because her husband witnessed it. She also claimed Cuomo tried to “legally differentiate” his behavior from 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.
“I never thought that Mr. Cuomo’s behavior was sexual in nature. 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.”
Cuomo was 34 at the time of the alleged incident. Ross also acknowledged she didn’t want Cuomo to lose his job, but said he needed to be held accountable in the wake of his involvement in his brother Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal.
An earlier report had alleged that the prime-time CNN personality was among a handful of people consulting for the former governor as he tried to salvage his career in the wake of the attorney general’s bombshell report accusing him of sexually harassing 11 women.