Former CNN anchorman Chris Cuomo says the network has smeared his “journalistic integrity” — to the tune of $125 million.
That astronomical amount — he was making $6 million annually at the time of his firing — is what Mr. Cuomo is seeking in damages, according to an arbitration claim filed against his former bosses at CNN and its parent companies.
Attorneys for Mr. Cuomo said in their claim, which was posted by the New York Post, that their client “has been damaged in countless ways” by being “unceremoniously” fired in December and by being disparaged by ex-boss Jeff Zucker and former on-air colleagues.
“The legal action filed today makes clear that CNN wrongfully terminated Chris and further violated the express terms of his employment agreement by allowing its employees to disparage him. Chris is owed a full apology from those responsible,” Cuomo attorney Bryan Freedman said in a statement to the Post.
The stated reason was that he had helped his brother, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, fight the sexual-harassment accusations that eventually forced his resignation, and lied to his bosses about the extent of it.
Since then, Mr. Zucker and his paramour/colleague Allison Gollust also have been fired over their undisclosed relationship and their own ties to Andrew Cuomo.
Mr. Freedman told the Post in a statement that this proves the firing was pretextual and unjustified.
“It should by now be obvious to everyone that Chris Cuomo did not lie to CNN about helping his brother. In fact, as the limited information released from WarnerMedia’s investigation makes clear, CNN’s highest-level executives not only knew about Chris’s involvement in helping his brother but also actively assisted the Governor, both through Chris and directly themselves,” Mr. Freedman said.
The filing states that the $125 million demand is based on losses in the form of back pay, bonuses and future earnings.
“As a result of Turner’s indefensible choice to unceremoniously fire him, Cuomo has been damaged in countless ways,” states the arbitration demand, which was filed Wednesday.
“Cuomo has had his journalistic integrity unjustifiably smeared, making it difficult if not impossible for Cuomo to find similar work in the future and damaging him in amounts exceeding $125 million, which includes not only the remaining salary owed under the Agreement, but future wages lost as a result of CNN’s efforts to destroy his reputation in violation of the Agreement,” the court document said.
Citing unnamed sources, the Post said that the greater part of the $125 million is based on Mr. Cuomo having a “non disparagement clause” in his contract, which the filing says was not honored after his firing.
“But instead Zucker came out and said Chris was a liar and he didn’t tell us everything he did for his brother. Then all those anchors started hammering Chris both on air and behind the scenes. The truth is that even if CNN had grounds to fire him — which Chris believes they didn’t — even if he loses the wrongful termination action — he will win on breach of contract based on the non-disparagement agreement. And the damages for that will be astronomical,” the source said.
CNN and parent company WarnerMedia had no immediate comment to the Post.