UPDATED with more details: Ryan Seacrest will host the E! network’s red carpet pre-show at Sunday’s Academy Awards, and appeared this morning on ABC’s LIVE with Kelly and Ryan discussing the Oscars, even as his former personal stylist went public with fresh details about the television and radio personality’s alleged sexual misconduct.
NBCUniversal confirmed that Seacrest will anchor E!’s two-hour coverage at the Oscars, saying its two-month long investigation into the allegations — which included interviews with more than two dozen people — found insufficient evidence to substantiate the claims.
“E!’s investigation was extremely comprehensive and thorough,” said an E! spokesperson, adding, “The investigator is an attorney with nearly 20 years experience and is highly regarded professionally. Any claims that question the legitimacy of this investigation are completely baseless.”
Seacrest is also one of ABC-Disney’s highest profile personalities. In addition to co-hosting the daily syndicated talk show LIVE, he also is hosting ABC’s pricey American Idol revival, which premieres in 10 days. The allegations resurfaced on the eve of Hollywood’s most high-profile awards show, whose producers are making an effort to make the telecast a celebration of the films, not a platform for protest.
ABC did not respond to requests for comment today, but earlier this week plans were still in place for Seacrest to interview Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel after Sunday’s ceremony to air the next day on Kelly & Ryan.
Reports of alleged workplace misconduct initially surfaced in November, when Seacrest disclosed that he was the subject of an investigation but denied behaving inappropriately. In February, E! issued a statement that its investigation had found “insufficient evidence to substantiate allegations against Seacrest.”
The former stylist, Suzie Hardy provided an interview with Variety in which she called the network’s investigation a whitewash, and detailed allegations of unwanted sexual overtures from Seacrest — including allegations of him grinding his erect penis against her while clad in his underwear, groping and slapping her buttocks.
An unidentified former co-worker told Variety that he witnessed two alleged incidents of assault by Seacrest.
Seacrest responded with a statement Tuesday, once again denying the recycled charges. He noted that the network’s investigation “clearly challenged the veracity of the claims made against me,” and sought to put the matter to rest.
“This person who has accused me of horrible things offered, on multiple occasions, to withdraw her claims if I paid her millions of dollars,” Seacreast said in a statement. “I refused. I have worked extremely hard to achieve my success and I don’t take my opportunities for granted. I don’t want to accuse anyone of not telling the truth but in this case, I have no choice but to again deny the claims against me, remind people that I was recused of any wrongdoing, and put the matter to rest.”
But the story continues to have momentum. On NBC’s Today show, national correspondent Kate Snow interviewed the former co-worker by phone, who said he witnessed inappropriate activity.
“She would go to tie his shoe and Ryan would shove her head toward his crotch,” the former co-worker told NBC. “I saw that more than once.”
In an awkward moment this morning today on LIVE, Seacrest deliberately walked away from the anchor desk when co-host Ripa offered to help him put on his shoes. The odd exchange occurred as the co-hosts bantered about standing desks, and kicked off their shoes.
As Seacrest struggled to put on his loafers, Ripa asked: “Sweetie, do you want me to put your shoes back on you?I’m a mom. I can do that for you.”
Seacrest scrambled around the anchor desk to do so himself, in full view of the audience.
The man, who asked not to be identified because he still works in the industry, described an alleged incident at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel before the Oscars in 2008. He claimed he saw Seacrest holding Hardy in a bear hug from behind, “She yelled, ‘Get off of me,'” the c0-worker recounted, saying Hardy was attempting to get away from the TV star. “I could see an erect penis in his underwear,” the witness told NBC.
The man claimed Hardy was visibly shaken and he urged her to report the incident to human resources.
Seacrest’s attorney, Andrew Baum, dismissed the allegations as “nothing new.”
“The alleged witness who spoke with the Today Show participated in the third-party investigation; he was interviewed and his claims were fully evaluated, as were the claims of everyone else in involved in this matter. At its conclusion, the investigation cleared Ryan’s name,” Baum said.
The attorney described the allegations as part of an “extortion attempt.”
“This entire matter was created by someone who wanted to be paid $15 million and Mr. Seacrest’s decision to fight back,” Baum said in a statement.