Disgraced former CNN golden child Chris “Fredo” Cuomo was back in the headlines Wednesday after he and his legal team dropped a massive “$125 [million] arbitration demand” alleging he was the victim of a “smear campaign” by the network, exclusively obtained by Deadline. In the process of laying out his complaints, Cuomo lashed out other CNN personalities including his “friend” Don Lemon.
“After months of legal anticipation following his December 2021 firing by Jeff Zucker, Chris Cuomo has just launched the official opening salvo in what looks to be protracted battle with CNN over not only $125 million in cash, but his character and family drama as well,” wrote Deadline’s senior editor Dominic Patten.
According to the filing, Cuomo argues “his journalistic integrity” was “unjustifiably smeared” by CNN and former boss Jeff Zucker. He claims these smears were “making it difficult if not impossible” for him “to find similar work in the future and damaging him in amounts exceeding $125 million…”
That large sum was supposedly to make up for “the remaining salary owed” from his CNN contract and the “future wages lost as a result of CNN’s efforts to destroy his reputation” after he flaunted journalistic ethical standards and aided his brother, disgraced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, through his sexual misconduct allegations, including smearing one of his accusers.
Speaking of journalistic ethics, Fredo and his team argue in the filing that CNN gave him “no reason to believe that his assistance to Gov. Cuomo was inconsistent with” the network’s standards and practices. He then threw a few of his colleagues, including his friend Lemon, under the bus:
In fact, CNN fostered a culture in which the network’s standards and practices were a constantly moving target, modified at CNN executives’ discretion as they saw fit., and that culture began at the top with Zucker and [Allison] Gollust. As long as Zucker and Gollust believed CNN’s ratings would benefit, they were more than willing to disregard breaches of traditional journalistic standards by CNN personalities, such as Don Lemon and Jake Tapper, or even to engage in blatant breaches of journalistic ethics themselves.
He even pointed to his own unethical behavior as evidence. “There is no better example of this than Zucker and Gollust making an exception to the CNN rule to direct Cuomo to interview his brother several times over the course of three months,” the filing said.
Cuomo also whined that CNN and their employees were saying mean things about him after he was fired:
In fact, not only did Zucker and CNN fail to instruct CNN employees not to disparage Cuomo, as required by the Agreement, but they themselves openly disparaged Cuomo in violation of the Agreement, with Zucker leading the charge.
CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter was mentioned a dozen times as someone who was on a mission to smear him. “Brian Stelter, reported that internal CNN sources said Cuomo was ‘trying to burn the place down,’” the filing noted. “Stelter also stated on CNN that Cuomo ‘was not going out quietly,’ suggesting Cuomo would seek vengeance for his termination.”
“After Cuomo’s termination, Zucker claimed that Cuomo had broken his word and that Cuomo misrepresented the extent of his support for his brother,” the filing added. “Other CNN staff joined in the calculated campaign to smear Cuomo and destroy his reputation.”
Only one person destroyed Fredo’s reputation. And he’s in the mirror.