Former Fox Business Network associate producer Jennifer Eckhart is not letting “fear of retaliation, victim shaming and further attacks” stop her from speaking out. This is what the journalist wrote on Twitter on July 20, the day she filed a lawsuit with co-plaintiff Cathy Areu (a past recurring guest on Fox News) against the Fox News Network and some of the biggest names to appear on the conservative news outlet: Ed Henry, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Howard Kurtz. In the complaint’s preliminary statement, Eckhart and Areu accuse Fox News of continuing to “protect and reward perpetrators of sexual harassment” and “putting such persons in positions of power from which they can subject women to sexual misconduct, sexual assault and, in the case of Ms. Eckhart, rape.” The lawsuit arrives nearly three weeks after Henry was terminated from Fox News, after the network received a complaint from a former employee’s attorney about Henry’s alleged “willful sexual misconduct,” according to an internal memo from Fox News Chief Executive Suzanne Scott and President Jay Wallace, per CNN.
— Jennifer Eckhart (@JenniferEckhart) July 20, 2020
The lawsuit is specifically accusing Fox News and Henry of sex trafficking. All defendants are facing accusations of a hostile work environment, sexual harassment and gender discrimination, in addition to retaliation, under the New York State Human Rights Law. Henry is facing an additional complaint of gender-motivated violence. Fox News has now responded with a new statement in response to Eckhart and Areu’s lawsuit, provided to HollywoodLife.
“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,” read Fox News’ statement. Now, learn more about Eckhart’s specific claims against Henry, in addition to her time with Fox News:
1. Eckhart joined Fox News in 2013. She started as a freelance administrative assistant to Liz Claman, who anchors Countdown to the Closing Bell, a program on Fox Business Network. She was later promoted to the role of production assistant, then a booker and finally, an associate producer, according to the biography section of her lawsuit.
2. In her lawsuit, Eckhart claimed that Ed Henry, former co-host of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, “preyed upon, manipulated and groomed” her. The young journalist claimed that Henry began to allegedly groom her when she was 24 years old, according to the second page of Eckhart and Areu’s court documents reviewed by HollywoodLife. In the court documents, she also alleged that the longtime on-air personality asked Eckhart to be his “sex slave” and “little whore,” and that he allegedly “threatened punishment and retaliation if Ms. Eckhart did not comply with his sexual demands.”
3. In Eckhart’s lawsuit, it was also alleged that her legal counsel told Fox News about Eckhart’s allegations that Henry “groomed, psychologically manipulated and coerced Ms. Eckhart into having a sexual relationship with him.” Eckhart claimed on page two of court documents reviewed by HollywoodLife that her attorney informed Fox News of her allegations that when Eckhart would not “comply voluntarily” with this “sexual relationship,” that Henry allegedly “sexually assaulted her on office property, and raped her at a hotel where Fox News frequently lodged its visiting employees,” by which Fox was allegedly “facilitating, whether knowingly or unknowingly, Mr. Henry’s conduct.” The same page included an allegation that Eckhart’s attorney informed Fox News of Eckhart’s claim that she was allegedly “violently raped while helpless and restrained in metal handcuffs” by Henry, while he allegedly “preformed sadistic acts on her without her consent that left her injured, bruised and battered with bloody wrists.”
4. Henry’s lawyer responded to Eckhart’s allegations. The former Fox News personality is defending himself against Eckhart’s accusations, which he denied through a lawyer. In a statement provided to HollywoodLife, Henry’s attorney Catherine M. Foti wrote, “The Me Too movement has helped to bring to light a number of injustices in our society, and everyone that has suffered deserves to be heard. This is not one of those cases. The evidence in this case will demonstrate that Ms. Eckhart initiated and completely encouraged a consensual relationship. Ed Henry looks forward to presenting actual facts and evidence, which will contradict the fictional accounts contained in the complaint. That evidence includes graphic photos and other aggressively suggestive communications that Ms. Eckhart sent to Mr. Henry.”
I stand w/ @JenniferEckhart and #CathyAreu 2 immensely brave women who now have their voices heard. I know how hard it is to come forward w/ allegations. We won’t cower in a corner anymore. We are standing up, we are fierce & being heard @LiftOurVoicesUS https://t.co/dSwdftt4nu
— Gretchen Carlson (@GretchenCarlson) July 20, 2020
5. Other journalists are standing by Eckhart. One of them is notably Gretchen Carlson, who herself worked for Fox News and accused the network’s former CEO, Roger Ailes (who died in 2017), of sexual harassment. “I stand w/ @JenniferEckhart and #CathyAreu 2 immensely brave women who now have their voices heard. I know how hard it is to come forward w/ allegations. We won’t cower in a corner anymore. We are standing up, we are fierce & being heard @LiftOurVoicesUS,” Carlson wrote on Twitter.
HollywoodLife has reached out to Eckhart and Areu’s lawyers for comment, who did not respond by the time of publication. We have also reached out to Fox News and Ed Henry’s lawyer, who provided the following statements above.