2020-07-20 23:04:21 UTC
of Sexual Harassment, in Lawsuit
Fox News executives knew of accusations against Henry three years before
he was fired, according to a suit filed on Monday
by Lindsey Ellefson and J. Clara Chan
July 20, 2020 @ 12:48 PM
Last Updated: July 20, 2020 @ 2:09 PM
Fox News and some of its top on-camera stars face new accusations of
misconduct in a lawsuit filed Monday by two women. One woman accused Ed
Henry, a host who was fired by Fox News earlier this month, of sexual
assault as well as harassment -- while a second woman who frequently
appeared as an on-air contributor accused Henry, Sean Hannity, Tucker
Carlson, Howard Kurtz and others of sexual harassment by dangling the
prospect of a full-time job in exchange for suggested sexual favors.
The suit -- filed on behalf of Jennifer Eckhart and Cathy Areu in U.S.
District Court -- also said that Fox News executives were aware of
sexual misconduct accusations against Ed Henry in 2017, three years
before firing him, and that the network tried to "take credit" for doing
the right thing with its July 1 announcement of his termination.
"In reality, Fox News knew that Mr. Henry had engaged in sexual
misconduct as far back as early 2017. At that time, when Fox News was
conducting a company-wide investigation into issues of sexual
harassment, multiple women came forward to complain that Mr. Henry had
engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct towards them. Upon information
and belief, this was known to Fox News' Executive Vice President of
Human Resources, Kevin Lord ("Mr. Lord"), as well as Fox News President
and Executive Editor, Jay Wallace ("Mr. Wallace"), and Fox Business
Network President, Lauren Petterson ("Ms. Petterson")," the suit said.
In a statement, Fox News responded, "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."
Henry's lawyer disputed the accusations. "The evidence in this case will
demonstrate that Ms. Eckhart initiated and completely encouraged a
consensual relationship," the attorney said in a statement. "Ed Henry
looks forward to presenting actual facts and evidence, which will
contradict the fictional accounts contained in the complaint. That
evidence includes graphic photos and other aggressively suggestive
communications that Ms. Eckhart sent to Mr. Henry."
According to the suit, Eckhart was a 24-year-old production assistant at
the network in 2014 when Henry reached out to her via Twitter and began
flirtatious interactions. After agreeing to meet him for a drink at the
New York Marriott Marquis, she said that Henry "out of nowhere, began
forcefully kissing Ms. Eckhart and ripped off her clothes. Ultimately,
Ms. Eckhart, fearing that her career would be over if she refused Mr.
Henry, relented and had sexual intercourse with him."
In November 2015, Eckhart said that Henry sexually assaulted again her
inside the Guest Office of Fox News' Manhattan headquarters building.
Finally, the suit said that Henry again raped in a Manhattan hotel room
in 2017 after restraining her with handcuffs behind her back and taking
naked photos of her without her consent.
Throughout this time, Eckhart said that she feared career retaliation
from Henry, whom she said sent her threatening emails and text messages,
including, "F-- you and your safe word. You will know when I am done"
and "#obey or #discipline."
According to the suit, Fox News fired Henry on July 1 less than a week
after learning of Eckhart and Areu's accusations and realizing "that it
was on the precipice of a public relations nightmare."
Areu, a frequent Fox News guest who aspired to a full-time role, also
accused Henry and other top Fox News personalities of sexual harassment.
According to the suit, Henry texted Areu to ask if she was "avail for
anchor interview" immediately after sending her a video titled "Fastest
Interview ... candidate selected in 3 seconds" in which the interviewee
exposes her vagina to get the job from a male interviewer.
In 2018, according to the suit, Hannity humiliated Areu in front of the
crew by placing $100 in cash on his set desk and asking any man present
to take Areu out on a date at a nearby steakhouse. "Ms. Areu was
completely mortified and made clear that she was incredibly
uncomfortable with Mr. Hannity's misogynistic behavior," the lawsuit
said, adding that the host seemed to retaliate against Areu because she
did not "play along." After this incident, the suit said, she was
"hardly ever, if ever at all, invited back to appear on 'Hannity.'"
Meanwhile, Areu -- who said she appeared on Carlson's primetime show "at
least" 17 times in 2018 -- said that after taping a segment with the Fox
News host in late 2018, she was told that Carlson began "probing to see
whether Ms. Areu was interested in a sexual relationship."
"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," the lawsuit said. "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
Areu also said that Kurtz, the host of "MediaBuzz," invited her to his
hotel room in July 2019, which she politely declined even though she was
looking for full-time employment at the network. According to the suit,
Kurtz later told her, "You're the only woman here who won't come to my
hotel room" and booked her only three times on his show "following her
rejection of Mr. Kurtz's advances."
A Fox News rep flatly disputed Areu's accusations against the network
and its current on-air talent. "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
In a statement, lawyers Douglas Wigdor and Michael Willemin, of Wigdor
LLP, said, "What this lawsuit reveals is that today's Fox News is the
same old Fox News. Some of the names in leadership may have changed
since Roger Ailes' regime, but Fox News' institutional apathy towards
sexual misconduct has not. How many more women will have to be
victimized before Fox News finally takes sexual harassment and workplace
sexual assault seriously? We expect Fox News to claim -- as it almost
always does -- that an 'independent' investigation found no evidence of
The statement went on, "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. 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."