A lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct by Fox News hosts including Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Howard Kurtz has been filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York.
The suit, which demands a jury trial, also makes a rape allegation against former Fox News Ed Henry. Henry was fired on July 1 after, in Fox’s explanation, a former employee’s attorney lodged a complaint on June 25, “alleging willful sexual misconduct in the workplace years ago.”
After his termination, Henry’s attorney, Catherine Foti, issued a statement saying he denied the allegations and was “confident that he will be vindicated after a full hearing in an appropriate forum.”
The plaintiffs in the suit filed on July 20 are Jennifer Eckhart, a former associate producer for Fox Business Network, and Cathy Areu, a journalist who was a frequent guest on Fox News.
In the suit, Eckhart, who began working at the network after graduating from journalism school in 2014, alleges that Henry raped her on office property and in a hotel where Fox News frequently lodged its employees.
Her attorney “explained to Fox News, in graphic and specific detail, that Ms. Eckhart was violently raped while helpless and restrained in metal handcuffs…,” the suit charges.
Fox News “knew that Mr. Henry had engaged in sexual misconduct as far back as 2017,” it adds. “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,” but instead of terminating him, Fox suspended him for about four months before he returned as a correspondent and co-anchor on “Fox & Friends Weekend,” and was subsequently promoted to co-host of “America’s Newsroom.”
The suit alleges that Fox News violated federal laws against sex trafficking by supporting Henry.
Fox News did not fire Henry because he’d engaged in sexual misconduct, but instead fired him because the network “realized that it was on the precipice of a public relations nightmare and wanted to get out ahead of this suit and be able to claim that it had done the right thing,” she maintains. “It had not.”
Foti has released a statement asserting that Henry had a consensual relationship with Eckhart.
Areu alleges that Henry sexually harassed her by sending her sexually explicit images and messages “throughout the first half of this year.” Henry knew that she was seeking full-time work at Fox News, and “was telling her, in no uncertain terms, that he would assist her career if she had sex with him,” she asserts.
Areu also alleges that she was subjected to sexual harassment by Hannity, Carlson, Kurtz and political analyst Gianno Caldwell.
She asserts, for instance, that Hannity humiliated her by offering male co-workers $100 to take her out on a date, and that Carlson tried to convince her to stay in his New York hotel room.
Fox News issued this statement in response: “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.
"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.”