The liberal network issued a statement Saturday evening announcing it had terminated Cuomo “effective immediately,” coming just days after he was suspended pending a review of the damning revelations from the New York Attorney General’s office about his involvement in protecting his scandal-plagued brother, ousted Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“While in the process of that review, additional information has come to light. Despite the termination, we will investigate as appropriate,” CNN stated.
Stelter, who had previously refrained from offering any criticism of his colleague, offered a more blunt assessment about the fired anchor.
Reliable Sources CNN (CNN)
“Chris Cuomo, one of the most popular anchors at CNN, one of the best-known names in television news, violated journalistic ethics and norms not once or twice, but many times and that’s ultimately what is the result of today’s news, Jim,” Stelter told CNN weekend anchor Jim Acosta. “What we didn’t know until tonight, Jim, is that an outside law firm came in and went through the thousands of pages of text messages and sworn testimony that was released back on Monday. So there was clearly something in those documents that was found to be a serious breach of standards and practices.”
The “Reliable Sources” host dinged Cuomo for “acting like an unpaid staffer” for his brother based on the documents released by the AG despite how “it was known months ago” that the anchor was helping the governor.
UltraViolet, a leading national gender-justice organization, called for CNN to immediately fire Chris Cuomo. (CNN)
Stelter told Acosta he has “no answers” as to the “additional information” CNN had learned as part of its investigation and when it would ever be made public.
“I think this may be a situation where it was death by a thousand cuts, where there were just so many headaches time and time again involving Chris Cuomo that even though many viewers loved ‘Cuomo Prime Time,’ looked forward to his show, he was causing so many headaches for the network and for CNN staffers that ultimately this decision was reached,” Stelter said. “I do think, you know, this is a moment where journalistic ethics are at play. I know there were many CNN staffers very unhappy with the situation, very frustrated by Chris Cuomo. At the same time, Jim, I was hearing from some fans of Chris, some viewers who said we understood he was looking out for his family.”
“This was always a very complicated situation. But I think the text messages and the documents this week, showing very deeply involved, very cozy with the governor’s office, very improperly working with the aides, that was ultimately why this was announced tonight,” Stelter added.
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 22: Brian Stelter, Chief Media Correspondent for CNN speaks onstage during ‘Discovery Gets Cooking’ at Vanity Fair’s 6th Annual New Establishment Summit at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on October 22, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Vanity Fair) ( Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
This marked a sharply different tone from CNN’s media correspondent, who previously defended Cuomo and downplayed the journalistic ethics violations.
In August, Stelter argued to “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert that Cuomo upheld journalistic “boundaries” with the governor and insisted “if we open up the journalism ethics book, there’s no page for this” despite it being a textbook definition of a conflict of interest.
Stelter also previously suggested Cuomo’s public scolding by CNN in May calling his communications with the governor’s team “inappropriate” was enough of a reprimand.
“Telling a well-off host to hang out by the pool for a couple of weeks is not a real punishment,” Stelter told viewers in August as Cuomo began his “long-planned vacation” at the time. “Scolding a host in public, saying what they did was ‘inappropriate,’ that is an actual punishment.”