A former female Fox Business associate producer and another woman who appeared frequently as a guest on Fox News programs, filed a complaint in New York federal court on Monday alleging sexual misconduct by top Fox News commentators Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Howard Kurtz.
The complaint also addresses a previous rape allegation against former Fox News host Ed Henry, who was fired from the network on July 1 after an internal investigation.
“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 complaint alleged. “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. Unfortunately, it is actually worse.”
The scathing complaint, filed by former associate producer at Fox Business Network Jennifer Eckhart and co-plaintiff Cathy Areu, who was a regular guest on Fox News shows, alleges a history of workplace harassment.
The lawsuit comes after Fox News fired Ed Henry, one of the network’s most prominent anchors, earlier this month after the network conducted an internal investigation.
“In reality, Fox News knew that Mr. Henry had engaged in sexual misconduct as far back as early 2017,” the complaint said. “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.”
Eckhart described a relationship with Henry that she said included violent sex and rape, adding that Henry had coerced her into a sexual relationship with promises to advance her career.
Areu alleged in the lawsuit that she had also been a target of Henry’s harassment, alleging that the news anchor sent her sexually explicit messages.
Henry said on Twitter Monday that he will fight the lawsuit with “every fiber of my being.”
I will fight with every fiber of my being. A statement from attorney Cathy Foti: pic.twitter.com/Ha6IqdWkKw
— Ed Henry (@edhenry) July 21, 2020
Areu also described inappropriate exchanges with other top Fox News hosts, including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Howard Kurtz — each of which she said had a damaging impact on her career.
In a statement, Fox News said Areu’s claims were “false, patently frivolous and utterly devoid of any merit.”
“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. “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.”
A Fox News spokesperson added in a statement, “there were not sexual harassment claims against Ed Henry at FOX News prior to Jennifer Eckhart’s claim on June 25, 2020.”
Areu, who was a frequent guest on Fox News shows, said in the lawsuit that Hannity, on set in 2018, slapped $100 on a desk and urged male members of his staff and crew to take her on a date.
After appearing on Carlson’s show, Areu said Carlson told her that he was staying alone in a Manhattan hotel without his family. Areu said that she had only been featured on his show three times since declining the advance. Areu also described an occasion in 2019 when she said that Kurtz invited her to meet him in the lobby of his hotel and was upset when she declined, telling her, “in sum and in substance, ‘You’re the only woman here who won’t come to my hotel room.’”
In all three instances, according to the lawsuit, Areu said that she suffered damaging consequences in her career and was rarely invited back as a guest on the hosts’ programs.
The complaint demands a trial by jury against Fox News, Ed Henry, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Howard Kurtz.
After returning from vacation, Carlson ended his Monday night program by going after the New York Times, claiming that the publication would be running about where he and his family lived with the intent “to hurt us, to injure my wife and kids so that I will shut up and stop disagreeing with them.”
The Times responded in a tweet late Monday by saying it had no such plans.
— NYTimes Communications (@NYTimesPR) July 21, 2020