CNN's Chris Cuomo Accused of Sexual Harassment by His Former ABC Boss, Who Calls for 'Accountability'
A former ABC producer says that Chris Cuomo sexually harassed her back in 2005, with the claims coming just over a month after his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, resigned in the wake of his own sexual harassment scandal this year. Chris has acknowledged that the incident occurred.
Shelley Ross wrote in a new op-ed for The New York Times that Chris — now 51 and currently a primetime anchor on CNN — "greeted me with a strong bear hug while lowering one hand to firmly grab and squeeze the cheek of my buttock" at a going-away party for an ABC News coworker at a bar in 2005. Her husband was also in attendance at the party 16 years ago.
Ross alleged that Chris told her in the moment, "I can do this now that you're no longer my boss," to which she said she responded, "No you can't," while "pushing him off me at the chest while stepping back, revealing my husband, who had seen the entire episode at close range. We quickly left."
She also claimed that Chris emailed her hours after the incident to write to her: "Now that I think of it … I am ashamed," apologizing for "even putting you in such a position."
"I never thought that Mr. Cuomo's behavior was sexual in nature. Whether he understood it at the time or not, his form of sexual harassment was a hostile act meant to diminish and belittle his female former boss in front of the staff," she wrote.
In a statement provided to PEOPLE by his rep, Cuomo said: "As Shelley acknowledges, our interaction was not sexual in nature. It happened 16 years ago in a public setting when she was a top executive at ABC. I apologized to her then, and I meant it."
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
Explaining that she has "no grudge" against Chris and that she is "not looking for him to lose his job," Ross said seeing Chris' handling and assistance in his politician brother's harassment scandal made her want to see "accountability."
"I'm not asking for Mr. Cuomo to become the next casualty in this continuing terrible story. I hope he stays at CNN forever if he chooses," she wrote, adding, "I would, however, like to see him journalistically repent: Agree on air to study the impact of sexism, harassment and gender bias in the workplace, including his own, and then report on it. He could host a series of live town hall meetings, with documentary footage, produced by women with expert consultants. Call it 'The Continuing Education of Chris Cuomo' and make this a watershed moment instead of another stain on the career of one more powerful male news anchor."
After reports revealed he advised his brother Andrew, 63, on sexual harassment allegations, Chris admitted on air in May that it was a "mistake."
Then in August, when Andrew resigned following a bombshell report by New York Attorney General Letitia James (which concluded that the governor "sexually harassed multiple women" and, in doing so, "violated federal and state law), Chris said he "can't be objective when it comes to my family."
RELATED VIDEO: Chris Cuomo Addresses His Silence on Brother Andrew Cuomo's Resignation
"So, I never reported on this scandal, and when it happened, I tried to be there for my brother," he told his audience on Cuomo Prime Time at the time.
"I'm not an advisor. I'm a brother. I wasn't in control of anything. I was there to listen and offer my take," he continued. "And my advice to my brother was simple and consistent: 'Own what you did. Tell people what you'll do to be better. Be contrite. And finally, accept that it doesn't matter what you intended. What matters is how your actions and words were perceived.' And yes, while it was something I never imagined ever having to do, I did urge my brother to resign when the time came."
Chris insisted he "never misled anyone" by refraining from covering his brother on the show. He added, "I never attacked nor encouraged anyone to attack any woman who came forward. I never made calls to the press about my brother's situation. I never influenced or attempted to control CNN's coverage of my family."