The lawsuit accuses the network and several hosts, including Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Howard Kurtz and the recently fired Ed Henry, of fostering and participating in an environment of sexual harassment and misconduct.
In the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in the Southern District of New York, former Fox News employee Jennifer Eckhart’s counsel accuses Henry of having “preyed upon, manipulated and groomed Ms. Eckhart starting at the young age of 24, by exerting his abuse of power over her and her career.” Henry was only fired by Fox News on July 1 even though he had participated in sexual misconduct as far back as 2017, the lawsuit states.
“In many ways, this is just sort of the tip of the iceberg at Fox News,” Dickinson, who is also an organizer with the Geneva Women’s Assembly, told Loud & Clear hosts Brian Becker and Nicole Roussell.
“And we know that network already has a long history of sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations. And Jennifer Eckhart [is] one of the women who has recently come forward,” Dickinson explained, noting that Eckhart is one of several women over the years who have accused Fox News and many of its anchors of condoning sexual misconduct.
“She was a former associate producer at Fox Business, and she sued both Henry and Fox News, describing a history of workplace harassment and a relationship with Henry that she said included violent sex and rape,” Dickinson added.
“As we read through the details of the lawsuit, it becomes really clear that this was a coercive relationship from the absolute start. Henry forced her into the sexual relationship by promising to advance her career, and in the moments that she attempted to push back, she felt that both her job and her career overall would be threatened,” she explained.
Although Eckhart’s legal counsel explained in detail to Fox News that she had been “violently raped while helpless” by Henry, the network did not immediately terminate him, the lawsuit states.
In the lawsuit, Cathy Areu, a frequent guest on Fox News programs, also alleges she was sexually harassed by Henry, as well as by Hannity, Carlson and Kurtz.
“I think we are not only seeing here a dynamic in which workplace harassment and sexual violence is endemic - not just in Fox News but in a whole host of workplaces - but also workplace retaliation that comes not only in the form of hindering women’s careers or career advancement or access to pay, but also retaliation that comes in the form of sexual violence. And I think we have to understand those together as both threats on women’s livelihood and bodily autonomy,” Dickinson noted.
In one of the instances described in the lawsuit, Areu alleges that Carlson approached her in December 2018 and probed to see whether she would be interested in a sexual relationship with him.
“Hardly making any effort to hide his intentions, [Carlson] began telling Ms. Areu that he would be alone in New York City that night, and specifically said that he would be staying alone in his hotel room without any wife or kids,” the lawsuit details.
According to Areu, Carlson retaliated against her after she declined his advances, only allowing her to be featured on his show three times in 2019 and not once in 2020.
“The initial harassment or even continued harassment that happens is traumatic. It’s very challenging, undermines your work, undermines your mental health. But the retaliation piece is I think a very, very powerful piece, because it is manipulative and intended to keep women silenced. And it’s because these abusers, these predators understand, as you were saying, the power dynamic. They understand what a woman faces when she speaks out against these things,” noted Hrizi, who is also the editor of the women’s magazine Breaking the Chains.
She added that “at every turn, these issues are treated differently than other issues of violence and harassment in society, because it is always the woman, the victim, who is questioned and almost put on trial.”
The lawsuit also states that the instances of sexual misconduct and harassment described are not isolated incidents, but rather that Fox News has “not only cultivated and fostered sexual harassment and misconduct, but has consistently accepted and rewarded it.”
“Fox News is on the hook here. Mr. Henry, he’s facing charges of sexual assault and has been fired, but that doesn’t change the fact that Fox News allows us this to happen … They’re looking at not just a PR nightmare here but a serious lawsuit or a potential series of lawsuits,” Dickinson noted.
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