If it is proved that CNN had prior knowledge of misconduct allegations against its recently fired star anchor Chris Cuomo but looked the other way, the liberal network will face a potential onslaught of lawsuits.
CNN could be on the hook for “seven figures” unless it successfully moves away from Cuomo, said Benjamin Eghbali, CEO of the California-based law firm Eghbali.
Cuomo hosted the network’s most-watched program, “Cuomo Prime Time,” but he was fired after CNN found out the extent to which he helped his brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, beat his own harassment allegations.
Eghbali said that Cuomo’s situation will be held to a very similar standard as the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, adding that they are going to try to push the blame completely on Chris Cuomo, and will say that they had no knowledge.
“So, the plaintiff’s job is going to be to show that there was some sort of knowledge on CNN’s side and they looked the other way … If they cannot prove that burden, then they will not be able to hold CNN responsible,” Eghbali said.
One woman, who wanted to be anonymous, took her allegations against Chris Cuomo to CNN through her lawyer, Debra Katz, and she said that she was “disgusted” by what she saw as his hypocrisy and attempts to discredit women who made similar allegations against his brother. She’s complaint became public very shortly after CNN fired their anchor star.
Cuomo was also accused of a harassment incident by former ABC News colleague Shelley Ross, earlier this year.
Cuomo will likely try to prove that what the woman is alleging against him was consensual – an opinion shared by Karen Agnifilo, former chief assistant district attorney at the Manhattan D.A.’s office, now with the firm Geragos & Geragos, said Eghbali.
Agnifilo said that Cuomo will likely try to use the same defense as his brother when confronted with similar allegations.
“I think [Gov. Cuomo’s] brother should do the Cuomo playbook: ‘We hugged, we kissed, we’re affectionate. It’s how we were raised,'” Agnifilo said.
As for CNN’s possible role in the case, Agnifilo said that they will have to turn over things like emails and employee files and other discovery-related documents. And then people will have to sit for depositions and interrogatories, and depending on what comes out in all that will depend on whether they had knowledge or didn’t have the knowledge.
“All that stuff comes out in the course of civil litigation, or they settle and it never comes out,” Agnifilo said.