UPDATED with Crown Media Family Networks statement: Mark Steines has filed a lawsuit against Hallmark Channel owner Crown Media, four months after he was abruptly removed as co-host of the network’s flagship series Home and Family. His four-claim suit filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges that his exit came after he stood up in support of two women on the show’s staff who had accused the show’s then-executive producer Woody Fraser of sexual harassment, and he was eventually fired for his stance.
The suit (read it here) names Crown Media Family Networks and Crown Media Holdings as defendants and accuses them of retaliation and wrongful termination. It says Steines “through his representatives regularly warned and alerted Defendants that Executive Producer Woody Fraser harassed and verbally abused producers on the show. Defendants took no action on his complaints.”
Eventually, the suit claims, Steines supported two female executives who had hired Lisa Bloom’s firm in a potential sexual harassment suit against Fraser. The lawsuit claims Crown Media executives made Steines “a target for Defendants’ executives, who were furious that Mr. Steines had opposed and reported Mr. Fraser’s sexual harassment, and then spoken to Ms. Bloom as a witness supportive of Mr. Fraser’s sexual harassment victims.”
“Mr. Steines alleges that in the summer of 2017, he stood up in support of two women who brought sexual harassment claims against the show’s then-executive producer, Woody Fraser,” Bloom, now Steines’ attorney in the lawsuit, said today. “He alleges that after he did, everything changed, with the network taking away his voice-over work, diminishing his role on the network, reducing his profile at industry events, cutting his salary by 25%, and ultimately firing him months before the end of his contract.”
Crown Media Family Networks in a statement later in the day Thursday said that it had not yet seen the lawsuit, but added:
“The decision to replace Mark Steines was a measured, strategic and difficult decision for Crown Media to make, but was necessary given that the ratings for the show had declined. Further, the results of third party research indicated that Mr. Steines was perceived negatively. There is no merit to the legal claims Mr. Steines is asserting against Crown Media. Crown Media is also surprised that Lisa Bloom is representing Mr. Steines in this matter since she has a consulting agreement with Crown Media.
“Crown Media is proud of Home & Family and the continued progress we have made in elevating the content and impact of our program. We are excited about the new creative direction for this new season and its potential.”
Hallmark Channel announced May 31 that it had “parted ways” with Steines, who had co-hosted Home & Family since its October 2012 premiere. The next day, his rep said, “The network’s given explanation for making the change was ‘creative reasons’; there were no other reasons given. … We had had nothing but positive reviews and feedback from Hallmark for the entirety of the time he has been on the show including this year.
The rep added the TV veteran, who has a co-host on Entertainment Tonight from 2005-2015, didn’t know when he went to the May 30 taping that it would be his last day.
At the time of the announcement, Hallmark Channel said, “Shows evolve and change all the time. Mark has been an instrumental part of Home & Family for the past 6 years, and we are extremely grateful for his incredible work and leadership. We truly wish Mark all the best in his future endeavors.”
Fraser, a pioneer of daytime TV who helped guide The Mike Douglas Show and Good Morning America, last year denied claims of harassment when news of a potential lawsuit arose.
The network later replaced Steines with Cameron Mathison. The series, which has received three Daytime Emmy nominations, airs Monday-Friday at 10 AM.