Seems Like Fox News Is Still a Safe Space for Sexual Harassment, Despite Its New She-E-O

Seems Like Fox News Is Still a Safe Space for Sexual Harassment, Despite Its New She-E-O
Image:Carolyn Kaster (AP)

Current and former employees and contributors of Fox News are alleging that the network was aware of anchor Ed Henry’s history of sexual misconduct—long before he was fired in early July. Fox News has maintained it was only privy to accusations made against Henry by former Fox News producer Jennifer Eckhart, who filed a lawsuit against Henry claiming he violently assaulted and raped her. But according to a Daily Beast exclusive, Henry’s predatory nature was common knowledge among Fox employees, so common that they doubt the network was kept in the dark until now.

Eckhart says she first complained to the network in February, “before the COVID-19 pandemic, I told Fox Human Resources I was working in a toxic environment; my concerns were ignored,” Eckhart told the Daily Beast. “Human resources never once followed up with me about my serious concerns. Instead, they showed me the exit door.” Eckhart was fired in June.

Fox News asserts that Eckhart never reported the sexual harassment or misconduct to HR—but perhaps they would have learned about it if they followed up with Eckhart’s complaint about working in a toxic environment, one that, according to the former producer, included Henry referring to her as his “sex slave” and coercing her to perform sex acts at Fox News headquarters.

With a woman, Scott, reigning as the current CEO of Fox News, the network seems determined to push the perception that they’ve transformed into a post-Roger Ailes era, when sexual misconduct was systematically swept under the rug. But Eckhart believes this is a farce. Eckhart told Daily Beast that “predatory behavior” is “consistently accepted and rewarded” at Fox and that the company’s human resources department exists to protect Fox’s reputation, not employees.

From Daily Beast:

“Women like me should not have to file a federal lawsuit for other victims at Fox to come forward. Why is that? It’s because the system at Fox is severely broken. It’s because, rather than listening to victims and stamping out harassment and abuse in the workplace, the Fox hierarchy chooses to publicly shame, silence and humiliate survivors,” [Eckhart] said. “I hope this action is a wake-up call for Fox, and results in positive changes to its workplace such that Fox eradicates the type of behavior that I and so many others have suffered.”

One staffer, who engaged in a sexual relationship with Henry from fall 2016 to spring 2020, said colleagues cautioned her of Henry’s flirtatiousness, a trait he was well known for… among other things:

That same staffer said that while she was warned by colleagues about Henry’s alleged penchant for younger female Fox staffers, she carried on a consensual affair with him that ended this past spring. The relationship was “emotionally abusive,” she claimed, adding that Henry was violent with her on one occasion.

She also told Daily Beast that while she is unaware of specific instances of women reporting Henry’s behavior to upper management, she
“heard stories of women to whom he sent suggestive messages.” This is consistent with the claim made by Eckhart and her co-complainant Cathy Areu, a former frequent Fox News guest. Areu claims that Henry often suggested that he could help her score a coveted Fox News anchor position in exchange for sexual favors and sent her sexually disturbing text messages in an attempt to woo her:

The Daily Beast obtained and reviewed several of the graphic texts Henry sent to Areu—the same texts first described in the lawsuit—including a picture of a woman’s vagina being clamped shut by clothespins (captioned: “Another Business Closed by COVID-19”), a meme featuring a woman presumably performing oral sex with the caption “The Male G-Spot Is Located in the Back of a Woman’s Throat), as well as a video captioned “Fastest Interview…Candidate selected in 3 seconds”, featuring a woman pretending to interview for a job, and then uncrossing her legs to reveal her genitalia. Directly after Henry purportedly sent that pornographic video to Areu—a frequent on-air guest who sought full-time work at the network—he added via text message: “Are you avail for an anchor interview.”

Areu also claims that Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Howard Kurtz, and contributor Gianno Caldwell have sexually harassed her as well. Fox adamantly refutes those accusations, but was happy to throw Henry under the bus: In a July 20 statement, Fox News said, “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.”

Women talk. While it is certainly possible that top brass at a major news network plagued with sexual harassment controversies didn’t know that one of their anchors had a tendency to prey on young women in the workplace and send disturbing text messages, it’s hard to believe. If anyone needed any additional evidence that She-E-O’s are little more than an aesthetic tweak, here you have it: Having a woman at the helm doesn’t seem to have made Fox News any less of a boys club. Fox News appears to still remain a safe space for powerful, lecherous men to prey on female colleagues with ease.

Read the full story at Daily Beast.

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