A lawsuit filed in federal court on Monday accuses Fox News superstars Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity of sexual harassment. It also names other former and current Fox News talent as additional defendants.
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), the 39-page complaint contains a trigger warning at the top (in red type, nonetheless) and documents a sweeping set of allegations against several of the conservative-leaning network’s top talent and against the network itself.
According to the complaint filed by attorney Douglas Wigdor on behalf of Jennifer Eckhart and Cathy Areu, Fox News repeatedly supported and promoted former anchor Ed Henry “despite the fact” that the network “was well aware of Mr. Henry’s inappropriate sexual misconduct.”
The lawsuit also alleges retaliation against Eckhart after she came forward.
“Fox News was trying to avoid taking accountability for what actually happened; namely, that one of its most prominent on-air personalities — with a history of multiple sexual harassment complaints — sexually assaulted and raped Ms. Eckhart,” a press release obtained by Law&Crime alleges.
“As for Ms. Areu,” the complaint and press releases claims, “Henry sent her [a] myriad [of] wildly inappropriate, disturbing and sadistic sexual images and videos and repeatedly suggested that he would help her obtain an anchor position with Fox News if she engaged in sexual acts with him.”“In addition, Ms. Areu was sexually harassed by multiple other men at Fox News, including Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Howard Kurtz and Gianno Caldwell,” the plaintiffs and their attorney say.
The lawsuit alleges that Carlson propositioned Areu for a sexual encounter and that he retaliated against her when she declined.
This incident allegedly occurred in December 2018 after Areu’s final appearance as a guest on Carlson’s eponymous program.“After Ms. Areu’s segment was completed, one of Mr. Carlson’s producers or writers whispered in Ms. Areu’s ear, while she was on set trying to get out of the chair, and told her that Mr. Carlson wanted her to stay until the very end of the show to chat with him,” the lawsuit alleges. “Ms. Areu had no choice but to comply with Mr. Carlson’s request due to the fact that she was on live television while tied to her chair with a microphone on her that was attached to the chair.”
The complaint continues:
Following the show, Mr. Carlson changed on set into his leather jacket for the annual Christmas party that he told Ms. Areu he would only be attending for approximately 10 minutes to, “make a quick appearance.” Following the show, Mr. Carlson, hardly making any effort to hide his intentions, began telling Ms. Areu that he would be alone in New York City that night, and specifically said that he would be staying alone in his hotel room without any wife or kids.
“Without question, Mr. Carlson was probing to see whether Ms. Areu was interested in a sexual relationship,” the lawsuit goes on. “Ms. Areu awkwardly sidestepped Mr. Carlson’s advances and declined to spend the night at his hotel. Mr. Carlson promptly retaliated against Ms. Areu, who was featured on his show only three times in 2019 and has not appeared once in 2020.”
The allegations against Hannity read, in relevant part:
Ms. Areu was a relatively regular face on The Sean Hannity Show until March 8, 2018. On that day, Mr. Hannity, on set and in front of the entire studio crew – and completely unsolicited – threw $100 on the set desk. He then began calling out to the men in the room and demanding that someone take Ms. Areu out on a date for drinks at Del Friscos. He repeatedly yelled, “who wants to take her on a date?” “Take her on a date to Del Friscos.” Ms. Areu was completely mortified and made clear that she was incredibly uncomfortable with Mr. Hannity’s misogynistic behavior by quietly pleading with one of her friends in the room to accept the money so that the humiliation would end. To make matters worse, Ms. Areu was “stuck” and could not even leave because Mr. Hannity engaged in this conduct while she was “hooked into” studio equipment that could only have been removed by a stagehand. Thankfully, none of the staff cooperated with Mr. Hannity, even after he repeatedly chided one particular male employee for being “afraid to take out a beautiful woman.”
Contained in the lawsuit is a picture of the alleged $100 bill:
Law&Crime reached out to Fox News for comment on this story, but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication.
A Fox News spokesperson later provided the following response:
Based on the findings of a comprehensive independent investigation conducted by an outside law firm, including interviews with numerous eyewitnesses, we have determined that all of Cathy Areu’s claims against FOX News, including its management as well as its hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity & Howard Kurtz and its contributor Gianno Caldwell, are false, patently frivolous and utterly devoid of any merit. We take all claims of harassment, misconduct and retaliation seriously, promptly investigating them and taking immediate action as needed — in this case, the appropriate action based on our investigation is to defend vigorously against these baseless allegations. Ms. Areu and Jennifer Eckhart can pursue their claims against Ed Henry directly with him, as FOX News already took swift action as soon as it learned of Ms. Eckhart’s claims on June 25 and Mr. Henry is no longer employed by the network.
Wigdor LLP attorney and partner Michael J. Willemin responded to Fox News in a statement provided to Law&Crime.
“Fox News claims – as it almost always does – that an ‘independent’ investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing,” he said. “Of course, Fox News will have paid the investigator, who also happens to be a management-side employment lawyer. In other words, a significant part of this ‘investigators’ time is spent defending companies like Fox News against allegations such as the ones brought herein.”
“Moreover, the investigator did not even speak with either of our clients, even though both Ms. Eckhart and Ms. Areu offered to meet with him under reasonable conditions,” Willemin went on. “We call on Fox News to work with our clients to retain a truly independent investigator who is transparent. The results of any such investigation should be made public for the world to see.”
Read the full complaint below:
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