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Chris Cuomo is suspended from CNN over his role in brother's defense


Chris Cuomo is off the set at CNN indefinitely. The host of "Cuomo Prime Time" was suspended one day after the New York State Attorney General's Office released thousands of documents and text messages that showed just how involved Chris Cuomo was in trying to help his brother dodge a sexual misconduct scandal. Andrew Cuomo resigned as governor of New York in August. But CNN says it was this latest release of documents that prompted a new internal investigation and that led to Chris Cuomo's suspension.

Sarah Ellison covers the media for The Washington Post. Sarah, how much detail is CNN providing about why they've taken Chris Cuomo off the air?

SARAH ELLISON: Well, they haven't said much. But they did put out a release that said that while they had appreciated the unique position that he was in and understood that he needed to put his family first, these new documents point to a greater level of involvement in his brother's efforts than CNN previously knew. And so these documents are really the thing that sort of prompted them to take this action, in addition to growing calls from outsiders, and even some of the women, that CNN needed to do something about this situation.

MARTÍNEZ: What are some examples from those documents and texts that might have set off alarm bells at CNN?

ELLISON: Well, in one message that was released on Monday, Cuomo wrote to a top gubernatorial aide of his brother, Melissa DeRosa. He said, please let me help with the prep. On another occasion, he texted DeRosa that he needed, quote, "all the best facts" to offer reporters. "Who can do it?" He also showed that he was personally involved in trying to learn the publication date for an article by The New Yorker writer Ronan Farrow that included an extensive interview with one of the governor's accusers. So he was actually, you know, asking DeRosa in another text for, quote, "intel." And he replied that he would ask his, quote, "sources" for information. So he was really quite involved - more than we thought.

MARTÍNEZ: CNN and Chris Cuomo had earlier said that this was about one family member helping another family member. But, Sarah, it sounds like it's a pretty abrupt pivot.

ELLISON: Yes. I mean, this ends months and months of CNN standing behind one of its biggest stars. It shows the sort of power of this kind of documentary evidence and these kinds of documents and texts. Cuomo had insisted that he wasn't on his brother's team, that he wasn't part of the team. He actually told investigators that. But the documents suggest that he actively sought to be on the team. So some of the things that he was texting and giving to his brother's top aides really breached the norms of conduct for a journalist. You either need to choose that you're a journalist or you're a political adviser. You can't be both.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. So he's suspended indefinitely. What are the chances that they let time pass and Chris Cuomo goes back to his regular spot?

ELLISON: I think it's very intentional the way that they've made this announcement and the kind of indefinite timing that they've given to this. I mean, CNN has brought back other contributors and other people, like Jeffrey Toobin, who were suspended. But Cuomo is someone that inside people were incredibly shocked about this announcement. The people who work on his show were preparing for his show up to the moment that this was announced. So it's a really open question about whether or not he's going to regain his role at CNN. He's certainly one of their biggest stars.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Sarah Ellison with The Washington Post. Sarah, thanks a lot.

ELLISON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.