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Tipsheet

Allison Gollust Discussed Interview Topics with Andrew Cuomo Ahead of CNN Interview

AP Photo/Ron Harris

Former CNN executive vice president and chief marketing officer Allison Gollust spoke to disgraced former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo about topics he'd like to discuss during an interview prior to his scheduled appearance on the network back in the early days of the COVID pandemic.

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During an internal investigation into former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo regarding his involvement in aiding his brother, Andrew, against sexual harassment allegations, law firm Cravath Swaine & Moore found that Gollust had been in communication with the governor about subjects he wished to discuss during an upcoming CNN interview, according to The New York Times.

Gollust previously worked for Gov. Cuomo from 2012-2013 prior to joining CNN.

The governor was scheduled to make an appearance on CNN on March 28, 2020. But prior to the interview, he told Gollust about three topics he wished to discuss, including what it would mean for New York residents if they were to be placed under a coronavirus lockdown and a recent phone call he had with then-President Donald Trump.

And shortly after the conversation, CNN staffers allegedly received communication from Gollust asking that questions on those topics be posed to Gov. Cuomo, according to The Times. Transcripts reviewed by the law firm showed the governor was asked about the subjects he suggested.

Gollust spokesperson Risa Heller said in a statement that, due to Gollust's previous employment under the governor, she acted "as the principal booker for Governor Cuomo during the early days of the pandemic so he could share critical public health information on CNN's air." 

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"This was well known by the entire network, and many producers relied on her for it on a regular basis," Heller said.

Heller also said The Times' report on her communication with Gov. Cuomo is a "complete misrepresentation of the facts," explaining that the governor's suggested he be asked about three topics on "one single occasion" and that the conversation "in no way suggested that inclusion of these topics was a condition of the interview, nor did she suggest the interview should be limited to these subjects."

"It is extremely common for newsmakers and elected officials to tell producers what topics they'd like to cover during an interview," Heller said. "WarnerMedia relying on this everyday practice as justification for dismissing Allison demonstrates how ignorant they are of journalistic practices, and further proves that her dismissal is nothing more than retaliation."

Gollust resigned from CNN earlier this week after Jason Kilar, CEO of CNN parent company Warner Media, wrote in a letter that the probe into Chris Cuomo revealed "violations of Company policies, including CNN's News Standards and Practices" by Gollust, Chris Cuomo and former network president Jeff Zucker.

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Chris Cuomo was fired in December by Zucker after a report from the New York state attorney general found he was more involved in defending his brother against numerous sexual harassment allegations than was previously known. Just days before the termination, CNN was informed of additional allegations that the now-former anchor had been accused of sexually assaulting a former colleague of his in 2011 when he worked at ABC News. Chris Cuomo denies the sexual misconduct allegations.

And earlier this month, Zucker resigned from CNN, citing a relationship with Gollust that he failed to disclose during the Chris Cuomo investigation as the reason for his departure.

In a statement following Zucker's resignation, Gollust said she and Zucker have been "close friends and professional partners for over 20 years" but that their relationship "changed during COVID."

"I regret that we didn't disclose it at the right time," she said at the time.

This, despite the relationship between the two former CNN executives viewed as an "open secret" among CNN employees.

Additional information about the relationship between Zucker and Gollust has been reported since the departure of the ex-CNN president, including how the relationship dates back to the mid-1990s when she was a "trainee" and he was executive producer of NBC's "Today" show.

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The two gave "talking points" to Gov. Cuomo to counter criticisms from Trump during the early stages of the pandemic. 

Zucker and Gollust were also allegedly "instrumental" in Gov. Cuomo's appearance on his brother's show in 2020, with Gollust personally requesting that the governor continue making appearances on CNN after his office began resisting more interviews.

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