(UPDATED with Fox News & Ed Henry attorney statements on lawsuit) Tucker Carlson is returning to Fox News Channel tonight after a short vacation, but along with the cabler newser itself, Sean Hannity and the now fired Ed Henry, the top rated host also finds himself in the center of a whole new legal spotlight of alleged misconduct at the now Suzanne Scott and Jay Wallace-run outlet.
“It is widely documented in the public record that Fox News has not only cultivated and fostered sexual harassment and misconduct, but has consistently accepted and rewarded it,” says a sex trafficking, sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit from former Fox Business Network associate producer Jennifer Eckhart and former FNC guest Cathy Areu filed today against the Rupert Murdoch-owned outlet, its former reporter and some of its biggest and loudest primetime hosts.
“Nevertheless, Fox News would have the public believe that it is a different place from the Fox News that was run by former disgraced Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes,” the jury trial action adds, noting the many accusations against the axed and now deceased former Mike Douglas Show producer.
“Unfortunately, it is actually worse,” the extremely detailed suit filed in federal court in New York asserts (READ IT HERE).
“As described in detail herein, Fox News continues to protect and reward perpetrators of sexual harassment and refuses to take accountability for putting such persons in positions of power from which they can subject women to sexual misconduct, sexual assault and, in the case of Ms. Eckhart, rape,” the injunction and wide-spread damages seeking suit states. “Some of the names in leadership may have changed since Roger Ailes’ regime, but Fox News’ institutional apathy towards sexual misconduct has not.”
“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,” said a Fox News spokesperson on Monday of the lawsuit, which also names MediaBuzz host Kurtz as a defendant. ”
“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,” the statement continues. “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.”
“There were not sexual harassment claims against Ed Henry at Fox News prior to Jennifer Eckhart’s claim on June 25, 2020,” FNC also added.
Henry’s attorney, Catherine Foti, issued a statement on behalf of her client.
“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,” the statement said. “This is not one of those cases. The evidence in this case will demonstrate that Ms. Eckhart initiated and completely encouraged a consensual relationship. 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.”
While only Henry is named in the sex trafficking claim, the complaint paints a damning portrait of the way things are still supposedly done at FNC.
America’s Newsroom anchor Henry was fired by FNC brass on July 1 after reports of “willful sexual misconduct in the workplace years ago” were supposedly brought to their attention on June 25 by “a former employee’s attorney.” That former employee in question was Jennifer Eckhart.
Monday’s lawsuit from lawyers Douglas Wigdor and Michael J. Willemin calls the move to axe Henry and claim the success of an independent investigation was FNC “trying to avoid taking accountability for what actually happened; namely, that one of its most prominent on-air personalities — with a history of multiple sexual harassment complaints – sexually assaulted and raped Ms. Eckhart.”
“Moreover, the investigator 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,” the Wigdor LLP attorneys declared in a statement after the suit was field today. “We call on Fox News to work with our clients to retain a truly independent investigator who is transparent. The results of any such investigation should be made public for the world to see.”
“In reality, Fox News knew that Mr. Henry had engaged in sexual misconduct as far back as early 2017,” Monday’s complaint propounds. “At that time, when Fox News was conducting a company-wide investigation into issues of sexual harassment, multiple women came forward to complain that Mr. Henry had engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct towards them,” it further says, following extremely explicit sections on the sexual assaults and rape that Henry is alleged to have attacked Eckhart with repeatedly. “Upon information and belief, this was known to Fox News’ Executive Vice President of Human Resources, Kevin Lord, as well as Fox News President and Executive Editor, Jay Wallace, and Fox Business Network President, Lauren Petterson.”
A few months after first going to HR over the Henry attacks, Eckhart, on June 12 this year, had her job at the outlet “terminated effective June 26, 2020, after more than seven years of employment,” claims today’s complaint – that turned out to be the day after her lawyers formally notified FNC of the Henry attacks,
Elsewhere in the suit, it is detailed how Carlson supposedly propositioned the full time job seeking Areu in December 2018 around the time of the FNC Christmas party. “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,” the 39-page document says, noting Areu “awkwardly sidestepped Mr. Carlson’s advances and declined to spend the night at his hotel” that evening.
Which basically ended her long run on Tucker Carlson Tonight the suit states.
“According to Mr. Carlson’s producer, it is Mr. Carlson himself who consistently rejects proposals to have Ms. Areu on his show, notwithstanding the fact that her segments were, or were among, his most popular,” the filing notes.”Indeed, as a decades-tenured cameraman explained to Ms. Areu, it is well known that the way for women to get ahead at Fox News is to sleep with the male anchors and executives,” it adds in another section, as alleged incidents of varying nature with Hannity, Kurtz and Henry are also disclosed.
Fox News has been looking to move pass an era of sexual impropriety and harassment allegations behind it after founder and CEO Roger Ailes resign in 2016 amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment. Among other resignations, firings and exits in the years since, top-rated host Bill O’Reilly was forced out in 2017 after reports of numerous sexual harassment settlements. Coming on the heels of Henry’s ouster, this new lawsuit presents a very serious pothole at the very least on FNC’s path to less damning days.
Furthermore, Carlson saw one of his top writers exposed on July 11 for frequently posting racist, sexist and homophobic comments on a legal message board. Tucker Carlson Tonight’s Blake Neff resigned that day, but while FNC execs condemned the writer’s vile actions, Carlson himself seemed to be more concerned with Neff than his bigotry.
“First, what Neff wrote anonymously was wrong,” Carlson told his viewers near the end of his July 14 show before heading off on suddenly revealed trout fishing vacation. “We should also point out to the ghouls that are beating their chest in triumph at the destruction of a young man that self-righteousness also has its costs,” he added, with an unspoken swipe at his former employers CNN, who outed Neff in their reporting.
“We are all human, when we pretend we are holy, we are lying,” the ratings record breaking host continued with defiance instead of the anticipated remorse. “When we pose as blameless in order to hurt other people, we are committing the gravest sin of all and we will be punished for it. No question.”