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This Monday, former Fox employee Jennifer Eckhart and frequent Fox guest Cathy Areu filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing Fox News anchors Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Howard Kurtz of sexual misconduct and accusing former Fox News host Ed Henry of raping Eckhart. In the suit, the two plaintiffs also allege that Fox News—one of the defendants named in the suit—protects employees who engage in sexual harassment.
In the complaint, obtained by ELLE.com, Eckhart says Henry “manipulated and groomed” her and abused his power “over her and her career.” She alleges he “groomed, psychologically manipulated and coerced” her into having a sexual relationship with him and threatened “punishment and retaliation” if she did not comply and that he once raped her.
The suit describes the alleged rape in graphic detail. Eckhart says it occurred at a hotel and that Henry handcuffed her and took naked photos of her without her consent.
Eckhart also says in the lawsuit that she went to human resources about the “toxic work environment” at Fox News in February 2020 but that no one ever followed up with her; she was then told on June 12 she’d be let go. The day before she’d be terminated, she informed Fox News of her allegations against Henry, who was fired shortly after.
Areu also alleges that Henry sent her “wildly inappropriate sexual images and messages” and that her career suffered when she denied his advances. She alleges she was “subjected to inappropriate sexual harassment and retaliation” by Hannity, Carlson, Kurtz, and Fox News contributor Gianno Caldwell.
The suit, which you can find in full on Business Insider, states that “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.” After the incident, Areu alleges she was “hardly ever” invited back to Hannity’s show.
It also states that once “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.” Areu says in the suit that, after she declined his advances, Carlson then “retaliated” against her, only featuring her on the show three times in 2019 and then not once in 2020.
Though Fox News fired Henry earlier this month, the suit claims “in reality, Fox News knew that Mr. Henry had engaged in sexual misconduct as far back as early 2017” after Fox News conducted an investigation into issues of sexual harassment.
Fox News said in a statement that an independent investigation found Areu’s claims “false,” other than the one about Henry:
“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.”
Vulture reports that a Fox spokesperson said, “There were not sexual-harassment claims against Ed Henry at FOX News prior to Jennifer Eckhart’s claim on June 25, 2020.”
Henry’s lawyer also said in a statement: “The Me Too movement has helped to bring to light a number of injustices in our society, and everyone that has suffered deserves to be heard. This is not one of those cases.” Henry’s lawyer claims the relationship was consensual.
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On Monday, Eckhart wrote her own statement on Twitter: “I stand for all victims who have been mistreated, harassed, assaulted, and even worse, at the hands of those in power, and the institutions that continue to support them. My decision to speak out was not an easy one, but I refuse to let fear of retaliation, victim shaming, and further attacks intimidate me into remaining silent. I am hopeful that my decision to file this action will result in positive change for women at Fox, and for all victims in the workplace.”
Former Fox host Gretchen Carlson, who famously accused former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment, also tweeted her support for Eckhart and Areu. She wrote, “I stand w/ @JenniferEckhart and #CathyAreu 2 immensely brave women who now have their voices heard. I know how hard it is to come forward w/ allegations. We won’t cower in a corner anymore. We are standing up, we are fierce & being heard”
This post has been updated to include the full statement from Fox News.
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