UPDATED, with additional Fox News comment: A day after she and a frequent Fox News guest filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the network and some of its major personalities, former Fox Business associate producer Jennifer Eckhart appeared on CBS This Morning to talk about her claims, including that she was “paralyzed with fear” while working at the network and that she believed that news anchor Ed Henry “had the power to destroy me.”
Fox News has pushed back against some of the claims she makes in her lawsuit (read it here) and said that it took “swift action” in terminating Henry on July 1 after it learned of her claims against him. Henry contends that his relationship with her was consensual.
In her lawsuit, Eckhart claims that Henry raped her and that she endured years of him subjecting her to sexual harassment, going into graphic detail in describing sexually explicit messages and texts he allegedly sent. But her litigation also claims that Fox News promoted Henry even though it knew about allegations of sexual misconduct “as far back as early 2017.”
In her CBS This Morning interview with Jericka Duncan, Eckhart said that “I was paralyzed by fear when I worked there. I don’t know how you can continue to cultivate and foster an environment that rewards sexual predators consistently year after year.”
Duncan also interviewed the other plaintiff in the lawsuit, Cathy Areu, a Fox News guest who claims that Henry sent her sexually explicit messages, and that she also faced harassment from other personalities including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Howard Kurtz.
“I kind of got numb to it. I thought it was perfectly fine to receive pornographic images and gifts. I thought that was normal for a male anchor to do,” Areu said.
Areu claims that after she rejected advances made by Kurtz and Carlson, her appearances on their shows dwindled. She also contends that her spots on Hannity ended after she refused to “play along” during an incident in which he put $100 on his set desk and repeatedly yelled, “Who wants to take her out on a date?”
In a statement issued on Monday, after the lawsuit was filed, Fox News said that, based on an 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 and 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,” Fox News said. It also said that it “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.” The network said that “there were not sexual harassment claims against Ed Henry at Fox News” before Eckhart’s claim on June 25.
Their attorneys, Douglas Wigdor and Michael J. Willemin, claim that the investigator tapped by Fox News “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.”
Fox News said that the investigator requested in writing that they speak with each plaintiff “with their attorneys present, and for the plaintiffs to provide them with any evidence (i.e., texts or emails) supporting their claims.”
The network added, “The Wigdor Firm declined, informing the investigators that neither plaintiff would be allowed to be interviewed, unless the investigators promised that anything either plaintiff said could not be used in any future litigation or proceeding. Because that condition is unreasonable, as evidence cannot be suppressed or hidden in this manner in litigation, our investigators were not given access to speak to either plaintiff. In addition, the Wigdor Firm declined to provide the investigators with any of the emails, texts or other evidence they requested.”
Henry’s attorney, Catherine Foti, issued a statement on behalf of her client. “The evidence in this case will demonstrate that Ms. Eckhart initiated and completely encouraged a consensual relationship,” the statement said. “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.”
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