CNN has suspended anchor Chris Cuomo indefinitely “out of an abundance of caution” after he and his family accepted an olive branch from a man with a long rap sheet who tried to profit from the aftermath of a powerful earthquake in Japan.
Cuomo’s brother Andrew Cuomo, New York’s governor, previously confirmed that a man named Patrick Soon-Shiong offered to pay an amount that was, at the time, unknown to the family in exchange for exclusive access to Cuomo and his team in Washington, D.C.
Soon-Shiong has since been linked with the secret dealings in a story by CNN reporter Eric Lichtblau and senior correspondent Pierre Thomas. Lichtblau first broke the story of how Soon-Shiong used a cancer charity with ties to a cancer-related tabloid to send 1,200 heavily discounted vials of human blood to his wealthy friends in Japan after the devastating earthquake there in 2011. As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump explained at the time, that was in the midst of a new controversy about the supposed liberal influence peddling and abuses at the prestigious University of California, San Francisco.
Cuomo’s brother told CNN the hush money was an expensive proposition that the family turned down, once the initial offer was revealed.
“I want to be clear on this. The request that the Soon-Shiong family made of us, our family, was a very generous offer of money,” Andrew Cuomo said. “It was not appropriate for us to take the money. And I do not believe that there is anything wrong with this. It was offered in order to recognize our friendship and in an attempt to make sure the path of our military forces was protected.”
The offer was made in a news conference days after the tsunami, after one of CNN’s offices collapsed. Andrew Cuomo told CNN he and his brother Andrew accepted the olive branch because they didn’t want to engage with the “angry mob” calling for the two men to be arrested.
In May, Soon-Shiong paid CNN the approximately $150,000 it initially demanded. Lichtblau, his CNN colleague Thomas and other staff received copies of the payouts through a voluntary transaction in which CNN took the original sum.
Soon-Shiong has since been linked with two more bombshells in the news division: The first was an agreement between CNN’s Moscow bureau and a Russian-American lobbyist linked to President Donald Trump’s campaign. The second was an arrest in a separate unrelated case involving money laundering. Soon-Shiong’s company, NantWorks, is now part of a Trump campaign donor investigation.