“I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss.”
Former ABC and CBS producer Shelley Ross claims in a New York Times op-ed she started fighting sexual harassment for over 40 years. She writes that in 1981 Roger Ailes demanded they form a sexual alliance or else she would lose her job offer on NBC’s Tomorrow.
Ross called a lawyer. Ailes did not deny it but apologized and asked her to take the job.
Ross accepted the job but realized it would take a lot more than her to end sexual harassment.
She hopes 40 years later something can finally happen.
Ross details how CNN host Chris Cuomo sexually harassed her in 2005:
“Now that I think of it … I am ashamed,” read the subject line of a 2005 email Mr. Cuomo wrote me, one hour after he sexually harassed me at a going-away party for an ABC colleague. 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.
“I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss,” he said to me with a kind of cocky arrogance. “No you can’t,” I said, pushing him off me at the chest while stepping back, revealing my husband, who had seen the entire episode at close range. We quickly left.
Soon after, I received the email from Mr. Cuomo about being “ashamed.” He should have been. But my question today is the same as it was then: Was he ashamed of what he did, or was he embarrassed because my husband saw it? (He apologized first in his email to my “very good and noble husband” and then to me for “even putting you in such a position.”) 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.
Ross wrrites that Chris used his lawyer skills to justify his actions since his actions didn’t have a “negative intent”:
At one point in his 2005 email to me, he referred to how “Christian Slater got arrested for a (kind of) similar act (though borne of an alleged negative intent, unlike my own).” Mr. Slater was arrested after a woman reported that he had grabbed her buttocks as she walked down the street. Police charged him with third-degree sexual abuse. (The charges were dropped.) Mr. Cuomo, a former lawyer, appeared to use his short apology to legally differentiate the two incidents. He suggested Mr. Slater had “negative intent” while he, Mr. Cuomo, did not. He seemed to have a keen understanding of what accountability might look like back then; today we have no clear idea if either he or CNN is interested in 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.
Ross decided to step forward due to Cuomo’s support of his brother, now-former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
But it’s not because Chris showed brotherly love and support because Andrew faces numerous sexual harassment allegations.
Ross noticed how, in March, Chris said he wouldn’t cover stories about Andrew. Chris mentioned, “I have always cared very deeply about these issues and profoundly so. I just wanted to tell you that.”
The last straw took place on Labor Day because Chris wore a t-shirt with the word TRUTH across the front.
Ross also cannot believe that Chris and CNN have remained untouched after investigations found that Andrew sexually harassed many women. Andrew resigned, advisers resigned, and people in other organizations lost their jobs due to connections with Andrew.
But not Chris:
Mr. Cuomo’s name shows up in an email thread with other advisers the weekend Governor Cuomo’s second accuser, Charlotte Bennett, came forward. The attorney general’s report says that he was part of “ongoing and regular discussions about how to respond to the allegations publicly” and that he appeared to counsel the governor “to express contrition.” The Washington Post also reported that Mr. Cuomo urged his brother to take a defiant position early in the scandal and not resign. We all know that Mr. Cuomo was being consulted by his brother; what has never come to light, and what Mr. Cuomo has not been held to account for, is the full scope of the advice he gave his brother and whether his advice and his role in helping shape the defense of a sitting governor (one who was being investigated by Mr. Cuomo’s own network) were in keeping with CNN’s standards and values. (In May, Mr. Cuomo apologized for taking part in strategy calls with the governor and his staff, calling it “a mistake.” CNN called those conversations “inappropriate.”)
Chris defended himself. He refused to call himself an adviser. He reminded everyone Andrew is his brother.
“A brother calls to privately console you after hours,” wrote Ross. “An adviser is looped in on staff emails and crisis conference calls, gives talking points and helps shape the narrative.”
Ross does not want to engage in cancel culture. Instead, she wants others to use her story to keep people accountable for their actions. Men (and women!) need to understand boundaries.DONATE
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