Chris Cuomo Is Going After CNN For A Ton Of Money After 'Smear Campaign,’ Ropes In Pal Don Lemon, Jake Tapper And More

Chris Cuomo, former reporter at CNN and brother of former Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo, was fired from the cable news channel in December of last year. Months later, the previous TV mainstay has filed arbitration paperwork against the network, arguing that his firing was not justified and that it was a “smear campaign” to destroy his name in the industry. He’s now asking the network for a whopping $125 million. 

The arbitration filing points to several things that CNN allegedly failed to do while reports were breaking online about Chris Cuomo reportedly passing along information to his aforementioned brother Andrew in order to assist him while Andrew Cuomo was facing allegations of sexual harassment. For example, the long filing says CNN “did not even attempt to investigate the veracity of the anonymous allegations” when they came in and simply opted to break up with Chris Cuomo instead. Due to the way things played out, the arbitration filing reports that Cuomo’s career has been “damaged” in the long-term and his name has been "smeared," and that’s why the filing is asking for such a large amount of money. As it notes: 

As a result of Turner’s indefensible choice to unceremoniously fire him, Cuomo has been damaged in countless ways. 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.

Another thing that Cuomo’s legal team says CNN failed to do was abide by the contract that was meant to protect him in office. They company allegedly “failed” to make “reasonable efforts” to keep employees from “disparaging” Cuomo. This is where some of his coworkers, including major names like Don Lemon and Jake Tapper, are called out specifically in the filing (via Deadline).

Other CNN staff joined in the calculated campaign to smear Cuomo and destroy his reputation. Jake Tapper, a CNN anchor, publicly assailed Cuomo’s ethics as a journalist and falsely claimed that Cuomo “threatened” Zucker. Don Lemon, another CNN anchor, falsely claimed that Cuomo had been ‘found to break with those journalistic standards and then [was] paid handsomely for it.’ Brian Stelter, CNN’s chief media correspondent, said Cuomo was ‘acting like an unpaid staffer’ for Gov. Cuomo and had been “trying to burn the place down” after CNN terminated him. Countless anonymous CNN staffers slammed Cuomo in the press, calling him “both journalistically and morally immoral,” saying ‘his biggest crime was he lied to Zucker,’ and labeling him ‘toxic and distracting.

Previously, Cuomo and Don Lemon had seemingly shared a close relationship. The two had been pretty chummy in both a work context and out in public together on many occasions. They were seen in The Hamptons together. They had a podcast together. Heck, they exchanged “I Love Yous” on air. Last year, Don Lemon even opened up to Wendy Williams his bro-mance with his work peer noting “I love Chris. I love his wife and kids” before touching on the Andrew Cuomo controversy. 

As on-air personalities, TV journalists take home a pretty penny.  Estimates had Cuomo pulling in over $6 million a year during the time he was doing work for the news channel (and weathered controversy before). At the time of his firing, a New York Post report indicated the former anchor had $18 million left on his contract and had plans to sue if CNN didn’t pay out. Now, months later, there’s been an arbitration filing for much more. 

Obviously, though, if the arbitration filing sticks, $125 million would be a much bigger payout and could take Chris Cuomo to the end of his career. At 51, the anchor would have likely had a lot of time on the air left, but it’s unclear what he’ll be able to do in the industry moving forward.  Arbitration can go on for a while as both sides go back and forth, but of course we’ll keep you updated no matter what ends up happening here. 

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.