They used to say “I love you” and call each other “brother” on a nightly basis during the brief handoff period between their shows on CNN. But now it appears the years-long public bromance between CNN anchor Don Lemon and ex-colleague Chris Cuomo may be on the rocks.
Cuomo, who was fired by CNN late last year amid a laundry list of scandals, issued an arbitration filing against his former employer for $125 million, claiming the network “unjustifiably” smeared his reputation — and named his old pal in the complaint.
The network ousted Cuomo in December following claims that he improperly helped his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, despite his position as a journalist, to fight a slew of sexual assault accusations raised against him.
But in the filing, Cuomo complained that CNN gave him no reason to believe his conduct would be brought into question since the network “fostered a culture in which [its] standards and practices were a constantly moving target” and it frequently “disregard[ed] breaches of traditional journalistic standards” and “blatant breaches of journalistic ethics” by Lemon and other personalities.
“For example,” the complaint stated, “in November 2021, CNN anchor Don Lemon was widely criticized for a flagrant breach of journalistic ethics when actor Jussie Smollett testified at trial that Lemon had texted him to warn him that Chicago police did not believe Smollett’s allegations of suffering a racist, homophobic attack.”
“Lemon had covered Smollett’s accusations and his subsequent investigation and prosecution, so intervening in the ongoing investigation by texting Smollett was an inexcusable breach of ethics,” it continued. ‘Yet CNN did nothing; Lemon was not disciplined in any way.”
Elsewhere in the document, Cuomo complained about incendiary comments his “brother” Lemon made about him in February during an in-house town hall following ex-CNN President Jeff Zucker’s resignation.
According to the Wall Street Journal, when one employee asked Jason Kilar, CEO of Warner Media (CNN’s parent company), if the network planned to pay Cuomo his severance, Lemon jumped in to throw water on the idea.
“Did you think about what message it sends to the journalists in the company and also to the larger public that someone can be found to break with those journalistic standards and then get paid handsomely for it?” Lemon reportedly asked.
The complaint characterized Lemon’s remarks as part of a “calculated campaign to smear Cuomo and destroy his reputation.”
Some CNN viewers will likely find Cuomo and Lemon’s public breakup extremely sad and disheartening. The pair’s on-air affection toward each other was a major draw for CNN’s nightly programming prior to Cuomo’s firing. The network knew as much and tried to capitalize on the bromance by releasing a podcast called “The Handoff,” which featured conversations between the two that extended beyond their respective desks.
“The love viewers witness between CNN’s Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo in the handoff between their shows each night is real. Now they’re stepping out from behind the anchor desk for a weekly conversation where nothing is off-limits. With no broadcast clock to hold them back, Chris and Don talk politics and get personal,” a description for the project reads.