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Report: CNN used ties to then-N.Y. Gov Andrew Cuomo to lobby for reopening of theaters during COVID lockdowns to benefit parent company WarnerMedia

Andrew Cuomo, Chris Cuomo (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

A new Sunday report from Semafor claimed that CNN used its ties to then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to lobby for the reopening of theaters during the COVID lockdowns to benefit its parent company, then known as WarnerMedia.

CNN will begin arbitration this month with Andrew Cuomo's brother, former network host Chris, who is seeking $125 million from the network for alleged wrongful termination in 2021. Chris Cuomo will reportedly claim that CNN used his connections to his brother to advance its own interests.

Jeff Zucker, CNN's CEO at the time, fired Chris Cuomo after he was accused of advising his brother on how to fend off sexual harassment claims made by former aides. Andrew Cuomo denied the accusations.

Semafor obtained text messages which will reportedly be presented as evidence in the case that revealed an undisclosed conversation from 2020 between Andrew Cuomo and CNN's then-chief marketing officer, Allison Gollust, who had previously worked for Andrew Cuomo before taking a position at the network.

The two kept in touch, and Gollust frequently coordinated Andrew Cuomo's appearances on CNN shows, Semafor reported.

The text message evidence revealed a conversation where Gollust requested Andrew Cuomo to meet with WarnerMedia's then-studio chief, Ann Sarnoff.

Gollust wrote, "She's bummed you don't open theaters in NY, but perhaps you can hear her out."

The governor then met with Sarnoff the following day. During the meeting, the WarnerMedia executive lobbied for Cuomo to reopen movie theaters.

At the time, WarnerMedia was anticipating the release of a new big-budget Christopher Nolan film, "Tenet." The film grossed $363.7 million at the box office worldwide, short of its $400 to $500 million estimates.

Cuomo began gradually reopening New York City movie theaters a few weeks after the conversation with Sarnoff.

Zucker and Gollust were both fired from the network in 2021 after allegations surfaced that the two were in an undisclosed relationship.

Former CNN stars, including Don Lemon, Brian Stelter, Zucker, and Gollust, are anticipated to provide testimony in Cuomo's wrongful termination case.

Semafor reported that Gollust and WarnerMedia declined to comment on the matter, while Sarnoff and Chris Cuomo did not respond to requests for comment.

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