CNN and Chris Cuomo Face Difficult Questions After Anchor’s Suspension

For Mr. Zucker, the decision to suspend Mr. Cuomo was a clear shift after months of supporting his highest-rated anchor, even as details surfaced about Mr. Cuomo’s involvement with his brother’s response to the scandal and as some journalists inside the network raised objections.

In May, the network called Mr. Cuomo’s actions “inappropriate,” and the anchor apologized on-air. But Mr. Zucker also told CNN employees that Mr. Cuomo “is human, and these are very unique circumstances.” When records surfaced in August showing some of his exchanges with the governor’s aides, Mr. Cuomo remained on the air, acknowledging the situation only after his brother resigned.

“I tried to do the right thing, and I just want you all to know that,” he told viewers on Aug. 16.

Mr. Zucker’s calculus changed this week amid a drumbeat of criticism over the new documents, which showed that Mr. Cuomo sent feedback on public statements and attempted to check the status of in-the-works news articles that could have been damaging to his brother. “Chris sends me a lot of things a lot of the time,” one former top aide to the governor, Melissa DeRosa, told investigators.

In August, Mr. Cuomo told viewers he “never made calls to the press” about his brother’s scandal. But in sworn testimony released on Monday, Mr. Cuomo said that when requested by his brother’s aides, he “would reach out to sources, other journalists, to see if they had heard of anybody else coming out.”

A representative for Mr. Cuomo did not respond to an inquiry on Wednesday.

By suspending Mr. Cuomo, not terminating him, CNN left a possible path for him to make a return. On Wednesday, Brian Stelter, CNN’s chief media correspondent, speculated on air that “it’s possible he’ll be back in January.”

There is precedent for a major TV host surviving a suspension. In 2015, NBC News executives removed the anchor Brian Williams from “Nightly News” for six months without pay for exaggerating a story about a helicopter trip in Iraq. Few in the TV industry thought Mr. Williams could find a viable route to a comeback, and some of his own colleagues objected to his return.

But Mr. Williams slowly rebuilt his career at MSNBC, NBC’s cable news network, first as a breaking news anchor and then as an 11 p.m. host. He is now entertaining suitors for his next move after announcing last month that he would leave NBC at the end of the year.

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