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Top CNN exec resigns as WarnerMedia chief accuses her and former network boss Zucker of standards violations


By Brian Stelter, CNN Business

Nearly two weeks after CNN president Jeff Zucker was forced out of his position, his former lieutenant Allison Gollust has also resigned from the company.

In a memo to staffers Tuesday evening, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said Gollust resigned after an investigation “into issues associated with” former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and his brother Andrew, the former New York governor.

“Based on interviews of more than 40 individuals and a review of over 100,000 texts and emails, the investigation found violations of Company policies, including CNN’s News Standards and Practices, by Jeff Zucker, Allison Gollust, and Chris Cuomo,” Kilar said in the memo.

“We have the highest standards of journalistic integrity at CNN, and those rules must apply to everyone equally,” Kilar added. “Given the information provided to me in the investigation, I strongly believe we have taken the right actions and the right decisions have been made.”

Gollust released a comment addressing her exit Tuesday night.

“WarnerMedia’s statement tonight is an attempt to retaliate against me and change the media narrative in the wake of their disastrous handling of the last two weeks,” she said. “It is deeply disappointing that after spending the past nine years defending and upholding CNN’s highest standards of journalistic integrity, I would be treated this way as I leave. But I do so with my head held high, knowing that I gave my heart and soul to working with the finest journalists in the world.”

A representative for Zucker did not immediately comment. Cuomo declined to comment.

WarnerMedia is girding for a potential lawsuit by Cuomo, who was fired from his 9 p.m. time slot in December amid multiple controversies.

As CNN Business first reported on December 5, CNN retained third-party law firm Cravath to assess Chris Cuomo’s conduct vis a vis his brother’s sexual harassment scandal.

The law firm’s initial review determined that CNN had grounds to terminate Cuomo, and that’s what Zucker did on December 4, putting an extraordinary chain of events into motion.

Cuomo hired a high-profile Hollywood litigator and told friends that he would seek the millions of dollars that remained on his contract. The network, under Zucker, refused to pay.

The Cravath review continued — and, as CNN previously reported, numerous staffers throughout the organization were interviewed.

“What had started with a focus on Mr. Cuomo’s behavior was morphing into a broader look at Mr. Zucker’s handling of the anchor and his interactions with the Cuomos,” a new New York Times investigation said on Tuesday. “Among other things, the lawyers asked CNN employees about how Mr. Zucker had handled Mr. Cuomo’s suspension and firing, what he knew about Chris Cuomo’s interactions with his brother — and whether any employees were aware of communications between Mr. Zucker and Andrew Cuomo.”

The Cravath lawyers also asked about the relationship between Zucker and Gollust.

Zucker confirmed the relationship, but because he did not disclose it at the time it began, he was in violation of company standards.

When he exited on February 2, he admitted as such: “I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn’t. I was wrong.”

Gollust said in a statement that the relationship “changed during COVID” and “I regret that we didn’t disclose it at the right time.”

Gollust indicated that she would continue working at CNN, as the head of marketing and communications, and she was seen at the company’s New York office last week.

But she has now resigned too, according to Kilar, and the Cravath probe is now complete.

Now the outstanding questions are about Cuomo. Will he sue? Will there be a settlement? Will there be some other outcome?

Cuomo’s spokesman Steven Goldberg said Tuesday night that “it is clear this was never about an undisclosed relationship. As Mr. Cuomo has stated previously, Mr. Zucker and Ms. Gollust were not only entirely aware but fully supportive of what he was doing to help his brother. The still open question is when WarnerMedia is going to release the results of its investigation and explain its supposed basis for terminating Mr. Cuomo.”

In a comment to The Times, Zucker’s spokesman Risa Heller pushed back on the “entirely aware” claim: “Jeff was never aware of the full extent of what Chris Cuomo was doing for his brother, which is why Chris was fired.”

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - Business/Consumer

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