UPDATED with attorney statement, court documents and case details: Fox Nation host Britt McHenry filed a sexual harassment lawsuit Tuesday against Fox News and contributor Tyrus over what she claims was inappropriate behavior including sexually charged text messages.
McHenry hosts Fox Nation’s Un-PC and had co-hosted the show with Tyrus, whose real name is George Murdoch. In October, McHenry filed a sexual harassment complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights.
According to the 31-page lawsuit filed today in the Southern District of New York (read it here), Murdoch’s inappropriate behavior began shortly after their first meeting in August 2018. In addition to the text messages, McHenry claims that Murdoch grabbed her in a forceful manner.
“For months in 2018, Ms. McHenry was crudely sexually harassed by her co-host at Fox News, the broadcast home of serial sexual predators Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes,” the lawsuit stated. “The co-host threatened to send her a ‘dick pic’ over text message, told her he liked her buttocks and legs, and speculated what Ms. McHenry would be like after sexual intercourse. When Ms. McHenry complained to Fox News Human Resources and management, Fox News asked what Ms. McHenry did to provoke her harasser.”
McHenry is represented by Lisa Bloom. The lawsuit claims retaliation, contending that the network stripped her of professional opportunities while giving Murdoch his own show.
Murdoch’s attorney Tom Clare said in a statement: It’s telling that Vanity Fair, TMZ, and other outlets reported on the lawsuit before McHenry’s lawyers contacted us about it. Tyrus denies the allegations in the lawsuit and will be defending it vigorously. He looks forward to having a public forum in the court system to clear his name from the smear campaign that has been waged against him in the media. Tyrus will be pursuing defamation counterclaims.”
Earlier today, Clare told Vanity Fair — which first reported on the lawsuit — that his client “looks forward to having a public forum in the court system to clear his name from the smear campaign that has been waged against him in the media.”
Fox News said in a statement, “Ms. McHenry’s lawsuit recycles the same allegations she filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights in October, to which we filed a response on Friday. As we have previously stated, Ms. McHenry’s allegations have been fully investigated and we are confident our actions will be deemed entirely appropriate in litigation. We expect all of her claims to be dismissed.”
In June, Fox News said that it looked into her claims and that they considered the matter “resolved.”
Also named in the lawsuit were Jennifer Rauchet, her show’s executing producer; Monica Mekeel, a human resources representative; and FNC vice president John Finley.
McHenry claims in the lawsuit that she complained in January to Rauchet that Tyrus had sent her inappropriate texts.
“To Ms. McHenry’s knowledge, Ms. Rauchet chose to ignore this complaint, did not contact Fox Human Resources about Mr. Murdoch’s harassment and did not otherwise report or investigate him,” the lawsuit stated.
The suit also claims that Murdoch created an “abusive and hostile work environment” for her on the set, including a February 22 incident in which he lashed out at her on the show. She complained again, the suit stated.
The “breaking point” for McHenry came in April, when she moved a hockey banner on set. “In front of their show guest, with his microphone on, Mr. Murdoch yelled at Ms. McHenry to take the banner down, and cursed at her,” the lawsuit claims.
She complained again to Rauchet, “who responded by telling her not to complain – that she was ‘replaceable,’ and that Fox News had never wanted her. When Ms. McHenry tried to continue the conversation, Ms. Rauchet physically walked out on her.”
McHenry said that she then was contacted by HR rep Mekeel and sent her screenshots of the text messages. The lawsuit claims that Mekeel “essentially asked Ms. McHenry what she had done to provoke Mr. Murdoch. Ms. McHenry clarified that she had never wanted nor asked to be sexually harassed, and that Fox’s response to her report is why women do not come forward and report sexual harassment.”
She said that she was told that her show would continue with a new co-host, but it was Murdoch who was given his own show as well as continued appearances on Fox News Channel. By contrast, McHenry — a former sports reporter for ESPN — claims that she was not invited to cover or report on the MLB All Star Game for Fox News Channel or on FNC’s Watters’ World, even though she used to make regular appearances.
She also contends that she has been frozen out of other opportunities and snubbed by Fox executives.
“Despite constantly promoting Mr. Murdoch’s new show Nuff Said, Fox News has provided Ms. McHenry’s show with nearly zero marketing, despite Ms. McHenry being the most clicked on personality on the Fox Nation website,” the lawsuit claims.
She also contends that the network conducted “sham” investigations. She contends in an investigation conducted last fall, in which investigators found no evidence of sexual harassment or retaliation, Murdoch “doctored text messages between them to make it appear that she was being sexually explicit with him.”
The lawsuit comes just days before the theatrical opening of Bombshell, the Jay Roach-directed account of the Ailes sexual harassment scandal. The movie, which opens Friday, stars Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie and John Lithgow.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.