There’s always plenty of drama inside the Oscars ceremony, but this year, it’s carrying over to the red carpet, days before the show, because of the sexual misconduct allegations against Ryan Seacrest.
On Monday, Suzie Hardy detailed the accusations that she first brought against Seacrest, who’s long hosted red carpet coverage for E!, in November. She told Variety about years of unwanted sexual aggression that she allegedly endured while working as Seacrest’s personal stylist between 2007 and 2013. Hardy’s attorney alleged in a letter to Seacrest’s network, when he was first accused, that the host’s behavior toward Hardy included groping her vagina and grinding his erect penis against her.
Seacrest denied Hardy’s story with a pre-emptive statement in November. At the same time, E!, which is owned by NBC Universal, launched an internal investigation of the allegations, which turned up “insufficient evidence.”
But the story was far from over. Hardy’s new interview offered many details of her claims, which Seacrest again denied, in a lengthy statement that cited the E! investigation. “This person who has accused me of horrible things offered, on multiple occasions, to withdraw her claims if I paid her millions of dollars. I refused,” his statement read in part. “I have worked extremely hard to achieve my success and I don’t take my opportunities for granted. I don’t want to accuse anyone of not telling the truth but in this case, I have no choice but to again deny the claims against me, remind people that I was recused of any wrongdoing, and put the matter to rest.”
Hardy responded, in part: “Ryan elected to take the story public with a false narrative that he was exonerated and the victim of some sort of money grab. He is not the victim, and I refuse to let him victimize me for telling the truth.” (Her attorney denies that Hardy has ever asked for money.)
On Wednesday morning, NBC’s own long-running morning news show, Today, featured a conversation between anchor Kate Snow and an anonymous man described as a co-worker of Hardy’s, who said he witnessed Seacrest’s misconduct toward her. “She would go to tie his shoe, and Ryan would shove her head toward his crotch,” he said. “I saw that more than once.”
(Interestingly, as Page Six noted, on Seacrest’s own show, Live With Kelly and Ryan, Seacrest’s co-host, Kelly Ripa, asked if he wanted help putting on his shoes after a treadmill segment on Wednesday.)
All the while, the network has continued to stand behind its star. “Over the course of a two-month process, our outside counsel interviewed more than two dozen people regarding the allegations, including multiple separate meetings with the claimant and all firsthand witnesses that she provided,” NBC Universal said in a statement to the New York Times on Tuesday. “Any claims that question the legitimacy of this investigation are completely baseless.”
Scandal actress Bellamy Young offered her opinion that Seacrest should step aside when Variety asked her about it at the A Wrinkle in Time premiere Monday. Young later apologized, saying she was “uninformed” and didn’t know that Seacrest had been cleared in an investigation.
Seacrest’s stance didn’t do anything to stop the internet from weighing in on the matter.
So if other actors just would’ve denied, they could’ve kept their jobs? Someone should’ve told Kevin Spacey. #RyanSeacrest
— Tracey (@sweetsucre) February 28, 2018
I believe in due process. The claims were investigated. He was found to be innocent of those allegations. There are legitimate victims who’s voices should be heard. Stories like these sadly delegitimize those voices. #ISTANDWITHRYAN #RyanSeacrest
— Grammer (@sophiagrammer) February 28, 2018
Jimmy Kimmel, this year’s Oscars host, who is set to be interviewed by Seacrest after the ceremony for Live With Kelly and Ryan’s post-Oscar show, said Wednesday that he would keep his appointment. Kimmel also said that he wouldn’t talk about the allegations, because he is the one being interviewed.
“Of course I will [do the interview],” Kimmel told Variety. “Listen, you know, we should at the very least afford people the opportunity for truth, what the facts of the story are before hanging them out to dry.”
In Seacrest’s personal life, his girlfriend, Shayna Taylor, declared her love for him in an Instagram post Wednesday, calling him “the most respectful, well mannered, civil, gracious, loving, kind human being.”
On Thursday, Ripa showed public support for her co-host on the air when she delivered the following message: “I just want you to know you are a privilege to work with, and I adore you, and I am speaking on behalf of all of us here.” She added, “I know what an easy, professional, great person you are, and I feel very, very lucky to work with you each and every day.”
“You are happiness,” Seacrest replied.
Ripa answered, “You are happiness wrapped in chocolate.”
Seacrest will be on the carpet — as of now, at least. The question is how many people will be willing to talk to him, particularly in an awards season that has included the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. We’ve seen how many stars have been supportive of those movements at other awards shows.
Jennifer Lawrence, for one, is still considering whether to speak with Seacrest at the Oscars, as she said on Wednesday’s edition of Howard Stern’s radio show.
When Stern told her about the allegations, she said, “I can’t imagine him being sexual.” Lawrence also noted that she has other issues with E!, such as the way they’ve been “mean” on the former show Fashion Police and the way that former host Catt Sadler left the network after being paid less than her male counterpart.
“I don’t know about the Ryan Seacrest thing,” Lawrence told Stern. “I think it is scary, you know. He has not been to trial for anything. I am not a judge. I am not a jury, you know. I don’t know … that is where this stuff gets tricky.”
In fact, Page Six reported that “top Hollywood publicists” would “steer many of their stars away from Seacrest on the Oscar red carpet.” They’ll go to Seacrest’s co-host Giuliana Rancic or one of the many other media hosts instead.
[Editor’s note: This story was originally published Feb. 28, 2018, at 7:02 p.m. ET.]
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