Jeff Zucker, Allison Gollust’s cozy ties with Andrew Cuomo deeper than previously known

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Ousted CNN honcho Jeff Zucker and his paramour Allison Gollust made personal calls to Andrew Cuomo in 2020 in a bid to lure the governor to make more flattering appearances on his brother Chris Cuomo’s show, The Post has learned. 

Looking to keep Andrew Cuomo on his brother’s show and boost ratings even as controversy swirled around the puffy segments, Gollust personally called Cuomo and leaned on her “good relationship” with the governor, sources with direct knowledge told The Post.

Gollust also looked to capitalize on her ties with the governor’s top aide Melissa DeRosa, which she had cultivated years earlier when she briefly worked as Cuomo’s communications chief in 2012 and 2013, the source said. 

Zucker — who sources say had an “open secret” affair with Gollust for more than a decade — also directly reached out to Cuomo at least once to urge him to keep coming on his brother’s show, according to the source. 

“They wanted more appearances,” the source said. 

Gollust’s maneuverings involved going over the heads of Cuomo’s communications staff, most of whom had joined the governor’s office after Gollust had already left, according to the source.

Allison Gollust, left, Jeff Zucker
Sources say Zucker had an “open secret” affair with Gollust for more than a decade.
AP; Reuters

“Most of the comms staff at that time hadn’t worked with Allison,” the source said. “She was only there for four months and it was 150 years ago.” 

“The governor and her had a good relationship,” the source added. 

The secret lovers’ appeals came as the brothers’ buddy-buddy segments in the spring of 2020 boosted CNN’s ratings but attracted ethical scrutiny from pundits and media critics. 

The “blowback” gave members of the now-disgraced governor’s team cold feet — and they considered booking fewer appearances with Chris Cuomo or pulling out of the interviews altogether, the source said.

Bookers from MSNBC were also angry about how often Andrew Cuomo was on CNN, adding to the pressure on Cuomo’s communications team to scale back his appearances on the network, the source said. 

Meanwhile, CNN’s own investigation into Chris Cuomo also revealed that Zucker and Gollust had an inappropriately close friendship with Gov. Cuomo — even coaching him on what to say during his infamous COVID briefings.

Multiple insiders say the friendship between Andrew Cuomo and Zucker stretches back years — while Gollust was the disgraced governor’s head of communications before joining CNN.

And Gollust and Zucker — the latter of whom yesterday dramatically quit CNN after their affair was exposed — in return gave Andrew Cuomo endless positive coverage.

“While those 11:30 a.m. daily briefings by Andrew were across every network, they boosted ratings in a poorly performing slot for CNN,” one source said. According to a source to Cuomo, “Zucker and Gollust even advised Andrew what to say — how to respond and particularly how to hit back at [President Donald] Trump to make it more compelling TV. 

“No network head should be coaching an elected official,” the source added. “It’s absolutely the antithesis of CNN’s standards of business.”

Since-fired anchor Chris Cuomo hosted his brother more than a dozen times on his primetime show, with some brotherly banter infused with simmering sibling rivalry.

Andrew Cuomo Chris Cuomo
CNN denied at the time that Chris hosting his brother, Andrew, on his show was a conflict of interest
CBSNews.com

Despite widespread criticism at the time, CNN denied it was a conflict of interest, telling the Washington Post, “We felt that Chris speaking with his brother about the challenges of what millions of American families were struggling with was of significant human interest.”

A rep for Zucker said of the claim he gave Andrew Cuomo preferential treatment and coaching for his COVID press conferences, “This is 100% false. During a once in a lifetime pandemic when people were desperate for information, CNN and every other network took the briefings live. Jeff of course had a relationship with Andrew Cuomo, as he does with countless other electeds. There was never a vacant time slot at CNN.”

The rep added, “Booking newsmakers on television is always extremely competitive among networks and an all-hands-on-deck endeavour. Everyone at the news organization pitches in, especially in critical moments, such as the early days of the pandemic when the public was eager for real-time information from elected officials.”

A media insider added, “The Cuomos are desperate, isolated and clearly up to their old tricks anonymously smearing their enemies in the press.”

CNN and Gollust didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Andrew Cuomo’s rep declined to comment.

Chris Cuomo was fired from CNN in December over his involvement in his brother’s scandals. Since Cuomo was fired for violating company policies, CNN has argued that it doesn’t have to pay out the roughly $18 million Cuomo would have been owed over the remainder of his contract.

Cuomo’s lawyers have seized on Zucker’s affair — which also violates CNN policies — to argue that AT&T has selectively enforced its ethics rules and that Cuomo should be entitled to a payout, sources say. 

Zucker has carefully crafted CNN as the “anti-Trump network” in a bid to improve its flagging ratings. The former president yesterday celebrated the news that Zucker was stepping down, calling him “a world-class sleazebag.”

Ironically, Chris Cuomo was fired by Zucker and Gollust after a review by an outside law firm concluded that Chris “had been much more deeply involved [in Andrew Cuomo’s issues] than we had ever known and than he’d ever told us, ” Zucker said on a call with CNN employees.

The network also lashed out in a statement about Chris, “He has made a number of accusations that are patently false. This reinforces why he was terminated for violating our standards and practices.”

Andrew Cuomo
Insiders say Gov. Andrew Cuomo was even coached on how to hit back at President Donald Trump during his daily COVID briefings.
Matthew McDermott

But the sources say Zucker and Gollust have enjoyed their own cozy relationship with Andrew Cuomo.

Gollust joined Zucker on a trip to Israel on March 5, 2017, where they had dinner with Andrew Cuomo and his top aide DeRosa at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

Gollust even told The Post in 2018 of the former governor’s ex-girlfriend Sandra Lee, “Sandy is a dear friend.”

A second source said Zucker was interviewed by CNN’s outside law firm Cravath — which is still conducting an independent investigation into Chris Cuomo — last week, when he was asked both about his relationship with Gollust and his cozy friendship with Andrew Cuomo.

This meeting directly led to Zucker announcing he was stepping down as worldwide president of CNN.

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