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Chris Cuomo coordinated with Andrew Cuomo's top aide as allegations spiraled, text messages show

CNN anchor and journalist Chris Cuomo sought to help tailor former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's responses to allegations of sexual misconduct, according to documents released Monday by the state's attorney general. Chris Cuomo has previously acknowledged involvement in his brother's response to the allegations, but the new documents shed light on his day-to-day communications with a top aide to the governor.

In one series of March 2021 text messages between Chris Cuomo, who is the former governor's younger brother, and Melissa DeRosa, the aide, Cuomo offered critical notes on a statement previously released on the governor's behalf. 

"Please let me help with the prep," he texted DeRosa on March 3, two days after he sent the notes and his own version, which he told DeRosa was what the then-governor "should have said."  

DeRosa's next text, on March 4, was a forwarded email from a CBS News producer who was seeking comment about the network's upcoming interview with Charlotte Bennett, a former staffer who told CBS Evening News anchor and Managing Editor Norah O'Donnell that she was sexually harassed by the governor.

Cuomo replied four minutes later: "Thoughts?" DeRosa did not respond.

Three days later, DeRosa asked Chris Cuomo for help.

"Rumor going around from politico 1-2 more ppl coming out tomorrow," DeRosa texted Chris Cuomo. "Can u check your sources."

"On it," he replied minutes later. Approximately 40 minutes later, he sent another text: "No one has heard that yet." 

In the texts, DeRosa also asks Chris Cuomo if he has "intel" about an upcoming New Yorker article written by Ronan Farrow. In his deposition, Cuomo told investigators he had contacted "another journalist" to find out when the story would be published, but denied doing anything to influence the outcome of the story. 

Cuomo told investigators he did not tell anyone at CNN that he had reached out to a journalist about Farrow's upcoming piece, stating that it was "not something that would be out of the ordinary."

"There was going to be an article about my brother. So I'm interested," he said, according to the documents. "I wasn't going to call the person writing it.  I wasn't going to try to influence any of the stories." 

A spokesperson for CNN said Monday that the new documents "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," the spokesperson said.

Isabelle Kirshner, an attorney who represents Chris Cuomo and attended his deposition, told CBS News on Monday that Chris Cuomo was "honest" with investigators.

"He's never worked on a source for his brother. He's been definitive about that," Kirshner said. 

Kirshner also criticized the release of the deposition and exhibits.

"I think this undermines one's trust in the system when you are told this is secret and then it's released to the public," she said.

Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly denied the allegations against him, both in public and in his own lengthy interview with investigators.

Rich Azzopardi, a spokesperson for Andrew Cuomo, also criticized New York Attorney General Letitia James in a statement Monday, accusing her of "abusing her government power."

"To the surprise of no one, Tish James continues abusing her government power to leverage her political future — prosecutorial misconduct, ethics and integrity be damned," Azzopardi said.

In May, Chris Cuomo apologized on air, calling his conversations with the governor's staff a mistake. The text messages with DeRosa revealed Monday depict an involvement that raises more serious ethical questions, according to Jane Kirtley, who is the director of the University of Minnesota's Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law.

"We have things going on behind the scenes where it appears that Chris is not only helping them strategize on their messages, but agreeing to do investigative work for them, to help them get information," Kirtley said. "As a journalist, at some point you have to say, 'No, I can't do these things, even though you're my brother. My journalistic ethics preclude me from getting this involved.'"

Correction: This story has been updated to correct how Chris Cuomo described his conduct during his on-air apology in May.

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