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Fox News as well as two of its biggest names and one recently-fired anchor have been hit with a lawsuit, filed by former Fox Business associate producer Jennifer Eckhart and occasional Fox News guest Cathy Areu. In the lawsuit, former anchor Ed Henry is accused of rape, while Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity (who are still two of the biggest names at the network) stand accused of sexual haramment.
The lawsuit, which was co-filed by Jennifer Eckhart and Cathy Areu, opens with allegations against Fox News that the network “consistently accepted and rewarded” instances of sexual harassment and misconduct that is “actually worse” than under Roger Ailes, who resigned as Fox News CEO in 2016 after accusations of sexual harassment. The specific allegations against former and current Fox News personalities begin with Jennifer Eckhart’s claims against Ed Henry.
Jennifer Eckhart, who is identified as the person whose report against Ed Henry is what led to his termination from Fox News, accuses Ed Henry of abusing his power over her and her career from the age of 24, asking her to be his “little whore” and “sex slave,” and threatening her if she did not fulfill his sexual demands, allegedly resulting in sexual assault on Fox News office property and Henry raping her in a hotel frequently used for the network's traveling employees.
According to the lawsuit, Jennifer Eckhart stated in “graphic in specific detail” to Fox News via counsel that she was raped while restrained, injured, and photographed while naked against her will. She supplied text messages that allegedly support her accusations against Ed Henry. The suit further claims that Fox News had been aware of sexual misconduct “as far back as early 2017” and his termination in early July was because the network was “on the precipice of a public relations nightmare.” A spokesperson for Fox News told us, "There were not sexual harassment claims against Ed Henry at FOX News prior to Jennifer Eckhart’s claim on June 25, 2020.”
Cathy Areu alleges that Ed Henry sexually harassed her with “a slew of wildly inappropriate sexual images and messages,” including photographs of male and female genitals and a video implying that sexual favors would result in job opportunities. Areu also accused Fox News anchors Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Howard Kurtz, and Fox News contributor Gianno Caldwell of harassment.
The lawsuit states that Cathy Areu frequently appeared on Hannity, and alleges that her appearances on the show became significantly less frequent after an incident of harassment in March 2018. She alleges that Sean Hannity “threw $100 on the set desk” and started calling out for one of the men in the room to take her out for drinks while Areu was “hooked into” studio equipment that she couldn’t remove without the assistance of a stagehand.
Similarly, Cathy Areu claims that an incident of harassment by Tucker Carlson of Tucker Carlson Tonight resulted in her being reduced from regular appearances in 2018 to only a few in 2019 and none in 2020. She states in the lawsuit that she “had no choice but to comply” with Carlson’s request that she stay until the end of a broadcast, made on live TV while she was attached to her chair by her microphone. According to Areu, Carlson began “probing” to see whether she would participate in a sexual relationship and then “promptly retaliated” after she declined.
Furthermore, Cathy Areu alleges that Howard Kurtz of Fox News’ Media Buzz show refused to meet with her after she “politely declined” meeting him in his hotel room and subsequently appeared “approximately three times on Media Buzz” after her rejection of his advances. Additionally, Areu accused Fox News political analyst Gianno Caldwell of attempting to “coerce” her into dating him.
Fox News responded the the lawsuit in a statement (via Variety), calling Cathy Areu’s allegations “false, patently frivolous and utterly devoid of any merit” based on findings from “a comprehensive independent investigation conducted by an outside law firm,” then 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.
While Ed Henry is not employed at Fox News, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson are two of the biggest names on the network at the time of writing. The statement suggests that Fox News stands by Hannity and Carlson, but only time will tell how much of an impact the lawsuit will or will not have at the network.