A former Fox News employee filed a third amended complaint on Monday, restating previous allegations that she had been sexually assaulted, harassed, and raped by former anchor Ed Henry. The complaint further claimed that Fox News’s original response to her lawsuit was demonstrably false.
Jennifer Eckhart, a former associate producer who worked on a Fox Business Network show in New York, initially filed a complaint against Henry and Fox News in July, alleging that the network repeatedly supported and promoted Henry “despite the fact” that the network “was well aware of Mr. Henry’s inappropriate sexual misconduct.” In particular, the complaint alleged that Henry coerced Eckhart to engage in sex acts on multiple occasions, which Fox News allegedly “benefited from” because the company “received value from [his] services” and “continued employment.”
In response to the lawsuit, Fox News claimed that no woman claimed Henry sexually harassed them prior to Eckhart reporting Henry’s allegedly unlawful behavior in June 2020.
“Before Eckhart’s claims, as far as Fox News is aware, no one had ever complained that Henry had sexually harassed them,” attorneys for Fox News wrote in court documents filed in September. “In 2016, Henry had been suspended and demoted for publicity surrounding a consensual affair he had with a woman in Las Vegas. But that discipline was for lack of judgment and reputational damage to the company, not workplace misconduct.”
In Monday’s amended complaint, Eckhart’s attorney Douglas Wigdor contended that the network was “very much on notice” of allegations against Henry but chose to reward Henry with a series of promotions instead of taking remedial action to curb further inappropriate behavior. Per the complaint, the first series of complaints against Henry were levied years before Eckhart came forward.
“Indeed, starting in mid-2016, Fox News (through the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP (‘Paul Weiss’)) conducted a series of Company-wide investigations into issues of sexual harassment,” the amended complaint stated. “During the investigations, multiple women came forward to complain that Mr. Henry had engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct towards them. According to reports, this was known to Fox News’ Executive Vice President of Human Resources, Kevin Lord, as well as Fox News President and Executive Editor, Jay Wallace, and Fox Business Network President, Lauren Petterson. Upon information and belief, these women came forward to complain before Ms. Eckhart was raped by Mr. Henry.”
The amended complaint also cited to a Daily Beast report in which a staffer was quoted as saying Henry’s reputation around women was an “open secret” at the network, adding that some people said to “be careful” with him [ensuing quote in bold and italics, just as it appears the filing]:
In 2016, Mr. Henry was suspended by Fox News for four months after news broke that he had an affair with a Las Vegas stripper. At this time, Fox Business Network anchor Liz Claman told Ms. Eckhart, “everyone at Fox News knows that [Mr.] Henry is a sex addict. That’s no secret.”
The lawsuit also pointed to reporting that Henry had to “complete a sex addition rehabilitation program” after the 2016 incident.
Law&Crime reached out to Ed Henry’s attorneys for comment. Attorneys Jayne Weintraub, Cathy Foti, and Elkan Abramowitz said in a statement that “Ms. Eckhart’s new filing does not produce one shred of new evidence nor new relevant claims.”
“She does admit to voluntarily sending Ed Henry intimate selfies she took of herself and that she never mentioned Mr. Henry to Fox’s Human Resources Department before she was terminated,” the lawyers said.
Michael J. Willemin, one of the attorneys representing Eckhart, said in a statement on Monday that the amended complaint “lays out how Fox News attempted to bury its head in the sand and refused to take appropriate action to protect its female employees, including Ms. Eckhart, all in the name of its bottom line.”
“The new allegations make clear that Fox News’ blanket denials are untruthful, and we look forward to taking discovery in this case to learn even more,” the attorney added.
On Oct. 16, U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams (the sister of Law&Crime founder Dan Abrams) ordered that the Eckhart case and a case brought by Cathy Areu be separated from one another.
Fox News said in a statement after the initial claims were filed in July that an independent investigation completely undermined Areu’s claims:
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.
A Fox News spokesperson also said in a statement that there were “no sexual harassment claims against Ed Henry at FOX News prior to Jennifer Eckhart’s claim on June 25, 2020.”
Ed Henry was fired on July 1.
Law&Crime reached out to Fox News for further comment.
Fox News reiterated in a Monday statement that there were no sexual harassment claims against Henry before June 25, 2020:
While we take even anonymous accounts of wrongdoing seriously as we learn of them, the fact remains that there were no sexual harassment claims against Ed Henry at FOX News prior to Jennifer Eckhart’s claim on June 25, 2020. Upon first learning of the allegations, we promptly commenced an independent investigation and took immediate action, firing Mr. Henry within six days of the notification on July 1, 2020. FOX News takes all claims of harassment, misconduct and retaliation extremely seriously and maintains a zero tolerance policy that is strictly enforced throughout the company which is why Mr. Henry was fired within days of Ms. Eckhart’s complaint.
Read the full amended complaint below:
Editor’s note: this story was updated post-publication with statements from Fox News and lawyers fo Ed Henry.
[image via Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images]
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