Talking Points

Jeff Zucker, the Cuomos, and the #MeToo domino theory

Let's call it the #MeToo domino theory. When a powerful man loses his job and status because of sexual harassment allegations, there's often a string of buddies and enablers in the background hoping they don't get caught out as well. Sometimes they aren't — but sometimes they are.

Today's example: Longtime CNN boss Jeff Zucker resigned Wednesday morning from the network, acknowledging he failed to disclose a "consensual relationship" with an underling. Why now? Well, he can thank former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who was fired in December while facing allegations of sexual and professional misconduct

"As part of the investigation into Chris Cuomo's tenure at CNN, I was asked about a consensual relationship with my closest colleague, someone I have worked with for more than 20 years," Zucker wrote in an email to network staffers. "I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years. I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn't. I was wrong." 

Let's trace the falling dominoes back to their source. Zucker fell because Chris Cuomo fell. And Cuomo fell because his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, fell. The governor fell — he resigned last year under pressure — because of his own, separate, sexual harassment scandals; Chris came under the microscope because of the work he did advising his brother as the allegations mounted. 

All three men are responsible for their actions, and all three deserve to face their own, individual accountability. But it's not a stretch to suggest that Chris Cuomo and Jeff Zucker might still have their jobs today if Andrew Cuomo hadn't behaved so badly. Once that first domino went down, it was inevitable the others would as well.

There's one other interesting thing to note about the CNN news. Since the modern #MeToo movement exploded in 2017 with the assault allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, many observers have expressed fears that the attempts to root out sexual harassment in professional settings might devolve into a witch hunt. That's a fair concern. But it's also striking how fast the careers of Jeff Zucker, Andrew Cuomo, and Chris Cuomo unraveled once anybody subjected them to even a small bit of scrutiny. It makes you wonder how many other dominoes might yet fall.