“Cuomo Primetime” was the top-rated program on CNN in both 2019 and 2020. Its former star will be moving to a network that is still trying to build an audience that can compete with the standard-bearers in cable news. While Cuomo’s CNN show averaged 2 million nightly viewers in 2020, his last full year on the network, NewsNation reportedly averaged only 46,000 viewers in prime time last year. (A NewsNation spokesperson said the network does not release ratings information.)
NewsNation was launched in September 2020 by Nexstar Media Group, which owns and operates local television stations around the country. The new channel, which replaced WGN America on the cable dial, launched with the goal of providing down-the-middle, unbiased news reporting and analysis. Other anchors include Dan Abrams, a friend of Cuomo, former CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield, former Fox News journalist Leland Vittert and former ABC News journalist Adrienne Bankert. Nexstar executive Sean Compton said adding Cuomo “will further our efforts to continue to ensure fairness and transparency in our news reporting and talk shows.”
Cuomo’s downfall at CNN was swift and abrupt. At the end of November, the network suspended him indefinitely after documents released by the New York attorney general’s office detailed his efforts to help his brother, then-New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, fend off allegations of sexual misconduct. He was fired a few days later, after CNN management decided that Cuomo had misled the network — and then-President Jeff Zucker — about the extent of his assistance to his brother, including the revelation that he had placed calls to journalists regarding the timing of forthcoming stories about his brother’s conduct with women.
Zucker himself was pushed out a few months later, with some CNN employees placing the blame on Cuomo.
Cuomo has maintained all along that he did not mislead anyone about the help he was giving his brother. In an interview with Abrams on Tuesday night, during which Cuomo’s new show was announced, he claimed that he “never lied” and kept “no secrets” with CNN leadership. He also said he didn’t directly call journalists with the goal of affecting coverage of his brother.
Asked by Abrams if he’s a victim of “cancel culture,” Cuomo said he doesn’t “feel sorry for [himself]” and is not a victim.
Cuomo was also asked about an allegation of sexual misconduct made by a former colleague earlier in his career, which he has previously denied through a spokesperson. “None of this happened,” Cuomo said. “My feeling is: It’s in the past. I’m never going to be able to convince people one way or another. I feed the story by commenting on it. I denied it, and you try to move on.”
Because Cuomo felt that he had been unfairly terminated, he filed an arbitration claim seeking $125 million in compensation from the company in March. Cuomo’s lawyers argued that “CNN’s calculated efforts to tar and feather him” left him “untouchable in the world of broadcast journalism” and denied him millions in future earnings. That pending litigation prevented him from answering some of Abrams’ questions, he said.
Cuomo recently launched a podcast called the “Chris Cuomo Project.” In his inaugural episode, he said he didn’t want to re-litigate the controversy with his brother or trash his old network.
“I really do regret how everything ended, but I will never regret helping my family,” he said. “As for CNN, I will never be a hater. CNN has great people. CNN has a great purpose. And I wish them all the best, and I miss so many of the people there. But, it’s time for me to move on, and I believe I can be more than I ever was before.”