Zucker Tells CNN Staffers Chris Cuomo 'Made a Mistake' With Gov Brother

The CNN president also called Rick Santorum’s comments on Native Americans “inappropriate and racist”

Lindsey Ellefson

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CNN president Jeff Zucker told staffers during a town hall Tuesday that primetime anchor Chris Cuomo made a “mistake” when he participated in calls with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s team to strategize handling of sexual harassment accusations against the politician. The network boss did not indicate Chris Cuomo will face any kind of repercussions, per a source.

Zucker emphasized in the all-hands presentation that the long-time journalist is human and makes mistakes, but pointed out that his relationship with his powerful brother is no secret to viewers or voters.

Employees tuned in to the video stream Tuesday after days of internal discomfort — reported by CNN itself — over the news of Chris Cuomo’s strategy calls and the company’s decision not to discipline the anchor. They were also eager to hear what Zucker had to say about the recent ouster of senior political commentator Rick Santorum, who left the network weeks after calls mounted for CNN to fire him over comments he made about Native Americans. During a Monday night appearance on Fox News, Santorum chalked it all up to “cancel culture.”

Santorum’s comments, Zucker told CNN staffers Tuesday, were “inappropriate and racist,” and he’s no longer on the network’s payroll.

Publicly, the network has acknowledged Chris Cuomo’s participation in the strategy calls was “inappropriate” and the anchor himself has since apologized. As CNN’s public relations team noted when the news broke last week, he has not reported on the sexual harassment accusations against the governor; in fact, he told “Cuomo Prime Time” viewers earlier this year he couldn’t.

Of course, when the coronavirus pandemic first swept the nation last year, Chris Cuomo broke with traditional conflict-of-interest standards to invite the governor on his show a handful of times, where they bantered about brotherly things and did prop gags that enraged some viewers as the crisis wore on.

“Trust me,” Zucker told staffers Tuesday. “No one cares about the CNN brand more than I do.”

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