From left: Ed Henry, Tucker Carlson, and Sean Hannity
Fox News is facing new accusations that some of its top hosts engaged in sexual misconduct, including harassment, assault, and in one instance rape.
Two women made the claims in a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, naming on-air personalities Ed Henry, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Howard Kurtz, and Gianno Caldwell, plus the company. The women are Jennifer Eckhart, a former Fox Business Network associate producer, and Cathy Areu, who has been a guest on the Fox News Channel.
“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,” the suit states. “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.” Ailes died in 2017 after leaving the company amid widespread harassment charges. Host Bill O’Reilly was ousted that year after Fox News spent millions to settle suits brought against him.
“Unfortunately, it is actually worse,” the suit continues. “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 document continues. “Some of the names in leadership may have changed since Roger Ailes’ regime, but Fox News’ institutional apathy towards sexual misconduct has not.”
Eckhart accuses Henry, the former anchor of America’s Newsroom, of asking her to be his “sex slave” and “little whore,” and coercing her into a sexual relationship under threat of retaliation, according to the suit. It goes on to say that Henry sexually assaulted her on company property and raped her at a hotel.
Eckhart’s lawyer came to Fox News executives with the accusations June 25, and the company fired Henry July 1, Deadline notes. The suit alleges that Henry was fired not for misconduct, as there had been accusations against him as far back as 2017, but because the company knew it was facing “a public relations nightmare.”
Fox News, however, gave Deadline a statement saying the company had taken “swift action” against Henry and that anyone with claims against him should pursue them directly with him. Another statement from the company said, “There were not sexual harassment claims against Ed Henry at Fox News prior to Jennifer Eckhart’s claim on June 25, 2020.” Henry’s attorney, Catherine Foti, also issued a statement, saying Eckhart “initiated and completely encouraged a consensual relationship.” Fox called the allegations against other personalities “baseless.”
Areu, who was seeking a full-time job at Fox News, makes accusations against Henry as well, saying he sent her many “wildly inappropriate” text messages of a sexual nature and making clear that she would have to have a sexual relationship with him in order to get the job.
She additionally accuses Carlson, Hannity, Kurtz, and Caldwell of sexual harassment. She was featured frequently on Tucker Carlson Tonight until December 2018, when Carlson told her he would be alone at a hotel without his wife and children, implying she should meet him for sex, according to the suit. She did not meet him, and she was invited to the program only three times in 2019 and not at all in 2020, the suit says.
Hannity, she claims, threw $100 on a table during a meeting and said to the men there, “Who wants to take her on a date?” After she refused to “play along,” she was “hardly ever” invited back on his show, she says. Kurtz, host of Media Buzz, asked her to his hotel room when she asked for advice on getting a job at Fox, while political analyst Caldwell tried to coerce her into dating him, she alleges.
Carlson is returning to his show Monday after a week’s vacation that came in the wake of revelations that one of his top writers, Blake Neff, had posted racist, sexist, and homophobic comments on a message board under a pseudonym. Before starting his vacation, Carlson denounced Neff’s remarks but did not address his own history of bigoted assertions.