CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was "indefinitely" suspended from work on Tuesday after newly released transcripts and text messages showed he had a bigger role than previously known in helping defend his brother, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, from sexual harassment allegations that forced him out of office.
"The New York Attorney General's office released transcripts and exhibits Monday that shed new light on Chris Cuomo's involvement in his brother's defence. The documents, which we were not privy to before their public release, raise serious questions," CNN's public relations office said in a statement.
The TV journalist offered to reach out to “sources”, including other reporters, to find out whether more women were going to come forward and relayed what he was hearing to his brother’s advisers, the materials made public on Monday say.
Mr Cuomo is host of CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time.
"These documents point to a greater level of involvement in his brother's efforts than we previously knew. As a result, we have suspended Chris indefinitely, pending further evaluation," CNN's statement said.
He also sparred with the former governor’s aides over strategy, urging an apologetic tone and criticising an early statement that he saw as playing down the allegations. He accused a top aide of hiding information from his brother.
At the same time, Chris Cuomo told investigators he spoke regularly with his brother, coaching him on his response and admonishing him for “bad judgment".
Chris Cuomo previously acknowledged it was a “mistake” to act as his brother’s unofficial adviser, but the full extent of his involvement only became clear with Monday’s release of his July interview with investigators and 169 pages of text messages, emails and other communications.
“I was worried that this wasn’t being handled the right way and it’s not my job to handle it, OK?” Chris Cuomo told investigators. “I don’t work for the governor.”
Andrew Cuomo resigned in August to avoid a probable impeachment trial after an investigation led by state Attorney General Letitia James found he sexually harassed at least 11 women.
His brother, the host of CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time, did his show on Monday night without mentioning the topic. In the past, he has said he has never reported on his brother’s situation for the network and never tried to influence coverage. On air in August, he said: “I tried to do the right thing,” and added he “wasn’t in control of anything".
CNN issued a statement saying the transcripts and exhibits “deserve a thorough review and consideration".
“We will be having conversations and seeking additional clarity about their significance as they relate to CNN over the next several days,” it said.
Monday’s releases show Chris Cuomo growing frustrated with his brother’s advisers as they scrambled to respond as more women came forward with harassment allegations.
The anchor pressed for greater involvement in crafting his brother’s message and offered up his journalistic sleuthing to find out what other allegations might be looming.
“When asked, I would reach out to sources, other journalists, to see if they had heard of anybody else coming out,” Chris Cuomo said in the July deposition.
Among the latest batch of investigative materials released by Ms James’s office is a video of Andrew Cuomo’s deposition from July and transcripts or videos of interviews with several Cuomo aides and advisers.
The releases were being done on a rolling basis — first with transcripts of the former governor and accusers on November 10 and Monday with his brother, aides and other figures — to allow time for redactions to protect individual privacy, Ms James’s office said.