Fox News Channel and several of its hosts have been named in a suit that alleges that the network did little to address reports of sex trafficking, sexual assault and harassment and retaliation perpetrated by several of its most popular on-air personalities.
In the legal complaint, former Fox Business employee Jennifer Eckhart alleges that fired anchor Ed Henry sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions, once while she was restrained in handcuffs, while both worked for the network. Eckhart says that after she tried to distance herself from Henry following the last alleged attack, and after she alerted her superiors to the “toxic” work environment she was experiencing, she was fired in June 2020.
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Fox News fired Henry in early July, citing “willful sexual misconduct” that the network had learned about when Eckhart’s attorneys contacted them. Henry first joined Fox News as its Chief White House Correspondent in 2011. He served as an occasional guest co-host on Fox & Friends Weekend from 2017 to 2019, before he was named co-host of America’s Newsroom, which he anchored with Sandra Smith.
Eckhart’s suit alleges that Fox News appeared to have acted swiftly after learning about Henry’s alleged behavior, but “Nothing could be further from the truth,” the legal complaint states. “Indeed, in Fox News’ public announcement, it grossly mischaracterized Mr. Henry’s behavior by whitewashing it as merely ‘sexual misconduct’ rather than violent sexual assault.”
Cathy Areu, a frequent Fox News guest who had hoped for a more permanent position at the network, is Eckhart’s co-plaintiff on the suit. Areu alleges that Henry and fellow Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Howard Kurtz retaliated against her when she turned down their propositions for sex. She also claims that Sean Hannity made her feel uncomfortable when he waved a $100 bill on set and demanded that someone in the studio agree to take her to dinner. She also alleges that contributor Gianno Caldwell refused to help her with her career after she turned down a date with him.
In a statement to the Washington Post Monday, Fox News Channel stated that it investigated Eckhart’s and Areu’s claims and found them “false, patently frivolous and utterly devoid of all merit.” Read the statement in full below:
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 and Howard Kurtz and its contributor Gianno Caldwell, are false, patently frivolous and utterly devoid of any merit. We take call 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.
In addition, Henry’s lawyer, Catherine M. Foti, issued a separate 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. 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 sexual communications that Ms. Eckhart sent to Mr. Henry.
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