CLEVELAND, Ohio — Fox News personalities Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Howard Kurtz, along with former anchor Ed Henry, have been named in lawsuit filed by two women. The lawsuit includes charges that range from sexual harassment to rape and reveals what led to Henry’s firing on July 1.
The lawsuit was filed by Jennifer Eckhart, a former producer for Fox Business, and Cathy Areu, a former frequent guest on the network.
The most disturbing allegations are made by Eckhart against Henry, who served as anchor of “America’s Newsroom” up until his dismissal. She claims Henry used his influence at the network to coerce her into a sexual relationship and assaulted her on office property and at a hotel where Fox News, which is also named in the lawsuit, lodges visiting employees.
The lawsuit describes an incident at the hotel where Eckhart says she was handcuffed by Henry, who took nude photos of her without her consent and then “violently raped” her, leaving her bruised and with bloody wrists. The claim includes screenshots of text messages from Henry using violent and abusive language towards her.
Henry’s attorney, however, said Eckhart initiated the relationship and that it was consensual.
“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. This is not one of those cases,” Catherine Foti said in a statement.
Fox News responded by saying Eckhart is free to pursue her claims directly with Henry as the network said it “acted swiftly” upon learning about her case on June 25 by launching an investigation and then firing him a few days later.
In the same lawsuit, co-plaintiff Areu accuses Henry of harassment for sending her sexually explicit messages and photos.
She also accuses Hannity, Fox News’ biggest star, of “misogynistic behavior” for offering $100 to any man on the set of “Hannity” who would take her out for drinks. When she refused to play along, Areu, a frequent contributor at the time, says she was “hardly ever, if ever at all, invited back” to appear on the show.
Areu alleges Carlson, the host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the most-watched news show on cable, of making an unwanted sexual advance when he specifically mentioned to her in December 2018 that he would be “staying alone in his hotel room without any wife or kids” following the network’s annual Christmas party. When she didn’t respond, she says her appearances on his show dwindled to none by 2020.
She also says her appearances on Kurtz’s show, “Media Buzz,” became less frequent after she refused an invitation to his hotel room in July 2019. She accuses Gianno Caldwell, a Fox News political analyst, of dangling his friendship with Ann Coulter, who Areu wanted to meet, to entice her into a date with him.
Fox News, which has been trying to repair its workplace culture the last few years following sexual harassment scandals involving former CEO Roger Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly, called these allegations baseless.
“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,” the network said in a statement. “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. 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.”
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages against Fox News and the defendants for creating a hostile work environment, sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Eckhart is also asking for monetary relief against Fox News and Henry for violations of federal sex trafficking laws.
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