Why CNN fired Chris Cuomo
Network failed to act before suspension
The now-canceled “Cuomo Prime Time” was apparently considered a terrific success for the ratings-challenged network by one of CNN’s liberal guests Sunday despite getting thumped on a nightly basis by both Fox News and MSNBC.
Goucher College professor of media studies David Zurawik, a regular on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” with host Brian Stelter, on Sunday fawned over how “successful” fired anchor Chris Cuomo was before his career derailed over his role in his older brother’s sexual misconduct scandal.
Goucher College professor of media studies David Zurawik said Chris Cuomo "was competitive in the toughest primetime time slot there is" despite regularly finishing behind cable news rivals.
“It’s a huge thing and that’s a big part of this story, Brian, I think is that Chris Cuomo as a performer, as a talent in the 9:00 p.m. time slot, did a terrific job. I mean, he did a terrific job. He had almost a million viewers a night. He was competitive in the toughest primetime time slot there is,” Zurawik told CNN viewers on Sunday.
“That complicated, I’m sure, for CNN when they were dealing with him because he was so successful as a performer in that time slot,” Zurawik continued.
The scandal-plagued show routinely finished well behind cable news rivals in the 9 p.m. timeslot before its host was terminated Saturday night.
“Cuomo Prime Time” finished November as cable news’ No. 25 most-watched show, averaging only 774,000 nightly viewers. Cuomo’s program finished behind 15 Fox News offerings, eight MSNBC programs and CNN’s “Anderson Cooper Tonight.”
“Tucker Carlson Tonight,” which airs in the same 9 p.m. ET timeslot averaged 3.7 million nightly viewers to beat Cuomo by nearly three million people on a nightly basis.
MSNBC’s 9 p.m. ET program, “The Rachel Maddow Show,” averaged nearly two million nightly viewers to more than double the turnout for Cuomo.
“Bring in the ‘laugh track’ for the idea that Cuomo was ‘competitive’ in the ratings. It’s like praising the Detroit Lions as ‘competitive,’” NewsBusters executive editor Tim Graham wrote when recapping the segment.
"Cuomo Prime Time" finished November as cable news’ No. 25 most-watched show. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
From the start of 2021 through Dec. 2, “Tucker Carlson Tonight” averaged 3.2 million viewers compared to 2.6 million for Maddow. Cuomo struggled to attract half of Maddow’s viewership while not even coming close to “Tucker,” settling for only 1.3 million viewers in its 9 p.m. ET timeslot.
CNN has not named a 9 p.m. replacement for Cuomo.
The beginning of the end for Cuomo at CNN began last week when the New York Attorney General’s office released documents from its sexual harassment investigation into ousted Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, revealing the anchor was far more involved in helping his big brother than he publicly acknowledged.
David Zurawik regularly appears on CNN’s "Reliable Sources" media show.
In a memo to staffers following a review, CNN president Jeff Zucker wrote, “Today I let Chris know that we are ending his employment at CNN,” adding, “It goes without saying that these decisions are not easy, and there are a lot of complex factors involved. But, as always, it was important to me to be upfront with each of you.”
Transcripts from Cuomo’s interview with investigators show the now-former CNN star admitting he would reach out to media sources to find out about new accusers who have yet to come forward publicly. Prominent attorney Debra S. Katz also informed CNN that she is representing a woman who accused Chris Cuomo of sexual misconduct, unrelated to the allegations against his brother. The younger Cuomo has also admitted to an incident in 2005 when he squeezed the buttock of an ABC News colleague without her permission.
Cuomo released his own statement reacting to his firing which also touted his show’s success.
“This is not how I want my time at CNN to end but I have already told you why and how I helped my brother,” Cuomo wrote. “So let me now say as disappointing as this is, I could not be more proud of the team at Cuomo Prime Time and the work we did as CNN’s #1 show in the most competitive time slot. I owe them all and will miss that group of special people who did really important work.”
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.
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