Fox's Newest Sexual Harassment Suit Somehow Even Worse Than You Thought
On the first page of the sexual harassment suit against the Fox News network and several of its male anchors, there's an explicit warning about disturbing sexual content: "TRIGGER WARNING: THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS HIGHLY GRAPHIC INFORMATION OF A SEXUAL NATURE, INCLUDING SEXUAL ASSAULT."
And it's not misplaced. This is gross and disturbing, and you should probably give it a miss. It's not like you needed to read all Ed Henry's harassing texts and a firsthand account of him violently sexually assaulting a woman to know that the people at Fox are garbage. As the complaint succinctly describes it, "Some of the names in leadership may have changed since Roger Ailes' regime, but Fox News' institutional apathy towards sexual misconduct has not." This is fundamentally who they are.
The suit is brought by two former Fox employees, Jennifer Eckhart, a young administrative assistant who worked her way up to a producer gig who sometimes made on-air appearances, and Cathy Areu, an on-air personality who played the role of "liberal sherpa" to be berated by the conservative anchor.
Eckhart describes being targeted by Ed Henry going back to 2014, when she was 24. After months where she tried to keep their relationship professional, she alleges that she agreed to go to his hotel room and have sex out of fear for her career. On other occasions when she resisted, she alleges that he handcuffed her, beat her, and took photos of her naked against her will. Henry regularly sent Eckhart inappropriate messages, including both graphic sexual imagery and references to non-consensual sex, such as "Fuck you and your safe word. You will know when I'm done." Which is amazing for both its vileness and Henry's apparent confidence that he could leave a digital record of this harassment without jeopardizing his career.
But apparently he was right, at least for a while.
In reality, Fox News knew that Mr. Henry had engaged in sexual misconduct as far back as early 2017. 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.
And Eckhart wasn't the only one allegedly getting inappropriate texts from Ed Henry making it clear that submitting to his inappropriate sexual advances was the price of moving up at Fox. Cathy Areu alleges she was also targeted.
As noted, the "fastest interview" video shows a purported interviewee flashing her vagina to the interviewer, who immediately offers her the job. Immediately after Mr. Henry sent Ms. Areu this video, he texted her, "Are you avail for anchor interview." Mr. Henry knew that Ms. Areu was looking for 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.
Apparently, Ed Henry sent quite a lot of graphic images to his co-workers. The word "vagina" appears in this pleading seven times.
In fact, Areu describes a toxic corporate culture where female reporters were routinely humiliated and subjected to demands for sex. According to the complaint, Howard Kurtz, host of Fox News's Media Buzz show, refused to meet with Areu after she rebuffed his advances, telling her "in sum and substance, 'you're the only woman here who won't come to my hotel room.'"
On two occasions, Areu describes being physically trapped after technical staff left her tethered to the chair by her microphone after the segment was taped. In December of 2018, after Areu taped her 17th segment that year on Tucker Carlson's show, "one of Mr. Carlson's producers or writers whispered in Ms. Areu's ear, while she was on set trying to get out of the chair, and told her that Mr. Carlson wanted her to stay until the very end of the show to chat with him." When the set had cleared, Carlson invited her back to his hotel room for a drink and "specifically said that he would be staying alone in his hotel room without any wife or kids." Areu declined, and was never booked on the show again.
Similarly, Areu's last appearance on Sean Hannity's show ended with her trapped in a chair during this anecdote plucked from every HR director's nightmares.
Ms. Areu was a relatively regular face on The Sean Hannity Show until March 8, 2018. On that day, Mr. Hannity, on set and in front of the entire studio crew – and completely unsolicited – threw $100 on the set desk. He then began calling out to the men in the room and demanding that someone take Ms. Areu out on a date for drinks at Del Friscos. He repeatedly yelled, "who wants to take her on a date?" "Take her on a date to Del Friscos." Ms. Areu was completely mortified and made clear that she was incredibly uncomfortable with Mr. Hannity's misogynistic behavior by quietly pleading with one of her friends in the room to accept the money so that the humiliation would end.
Oh, look, here's the $100 bill and Hannity's vape pen on the desk in the bottom left corner of the photo.
In May of this year, Ed Henry severed his professional relationship with Areu after she failed to respond to his sexual advances, calling her "boring" and a "jerk" who made him "sad."
FFS, Areu says she even got barred from the premises at Florida Fox affiliate WXEL after telling the station manager that the cameraman had pinched her ass after "a cameraman named Gill – who had been showing Ms. Areu photographs of women in bikinis all morning – squeezed her rear end without warning or consent."
The rot at Fox goes deep. Eckhart was terminated in June, after complaining to HR in February about a hostile work environment. And Ed Henry was only fired after Areu and Eckhart's lawyer Douglas Wigdor told Fox about Eckhart's allegations of handcuffing and rape. Wigdor is an employment lawyer who has represented women suing Fox, Harvey Weinstein, and other media companies, as well as Tara Reade when she made her claims against Joe Biden; he was deeply unimpressed with Fox's invitation to sue Henry personally instead of the company "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."
"Of course, Fox News will have paid the investigator, who also happens to be a management-side employment lawyer," he said in a statement issued yesterday. "In other words, a significant part of this 'investigator's' time is spent defending companies like Fox News against allegations such as the ones brought herein. Moreover, the investigator did not even speak with either of our clients, even though both Ms. Eckhart and Ms. Areu offered to meet with him under reasonable conditions. We call on Fox News to work with our clients to retain a truly independent investigator who is transparent. The results of any such investigation should be made public for the world to see."
Or as the plaintiffs pointed out in their filing, "Fox News did not terminate Mr. Henry for his misconduct – it terminated Mr. Henry because it realized it was on the precipice of a public relations nightmare."
God bless. Take 'em all down.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.