- Two women who previously worked for or with Fox News filed a lawsuit claiming they faced sexual harassment, assault, and gender-based discrimination while at the job.
- Former associate producer Jennifer Eckhart said she was “violently raped” by anchor Ed Henry. Henry was fired from the network a few weeks ago after Fox News investigated sexual misconduct claims against him, though details about this claim were not released.
- Frequent on-air guest Cathy Areu claims that Henry sent her inappropriate sexual photos and suggested they should sleep together. She also accused hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and others of harassment.
- Henry’s lawyer denied Eckhart’s claims. Fox News also said that based on an independent investigation, they believe the allegations against Carlson, Hannity, and other talent are false.
Ed Henry Accused of Assault and Rape
It has been exactly four years since Roger Ailes resigned from his position as Fox News CEO following claims of sexual misconduct. However, a lawsuit filed Monday suggests the company culture that allowed for such misconduct remains.
The civil suit lodges allegations against big names at Fox News, including anchors like Ed Henry, Tucker Carlson, and Sean Hannity. The plaintiffs are Jennifer Eckhart and Cathy Areu. Eckhart is a former associate producer and Areu is an on-air personality who used to regularly appear as a guest on Fox News programs. Some of the allegations in the case are graphic enough to warrant a trigger warning at the top of the suit.
Eckhart claims that throughout her time at Fox News, Henry leveraged his power over her career and asked her to be his “sex slave” and “little whore.” If she did not comply with his sexual demands, she was threatened.
Henry allegedly manipulated her into a sexual relationship and she claims some assaults happened on office property. In one case, she said she was “violently raped” while at a hotel where Fox News frequently posted guests from out of town.
Eckhart says she was “helpless and restrained in metal handcuffs, as Mr. Henry performed sadistic acts on her without her consent that left her injured, bruised and battered with bloody wrists.” Before committing this assault, the lawsuit alleges that Henry took photos of her without her consent “as an intimidation tactic to silence her.”
The complaint also includes graphic messages Henry allegedly sent to Eckhart that contain sexual and violent language. Those messages say things like “when u r owned u don’t get a ‘choice’” and “#obey or #discipline.”
Fox News announced that Henry had been fired from the network on July 1 as a result of sexual misconduct allegations, but did not further elaborate on what those claims exactly entailed. The lawsuit alleges that the network knew about Eckhart’s claims as early as 2017.
Areu also claimed that Henry engaged in inappropriate conduct with her. She claims that he sent her explicit messages and imagines, some of which included sex acts or close up shots of women exposing their genitals. He also allegedly suggested that the two have sex, and when she rejected his advances, she said he berated her and ended their professional relationship.
Allegations Against Other Personalities
Areu also said she was subject to harassment from some of Fox’s most notable on-air figures. She claimed that after an appearance on Sean Hannity’s show, he put $100 on the desk and repeatedly asked the men in the room to use it to take her on a date. She said this was especially humiliating because, at the time, she was hooked into studio equipment she could not remove herself, so she was essentially stuck in the studio to watch the situation play out.
The lawsuit also claims that she made frequent appearances on Tucker Carlson’s show, with at least 17 slots in 2018 alone. After one of her appearances at the end of 2018, Carlson allegedly told her he was staying alone at a New York hotel without his wife or kids.
“Without question, Mr. Carlson was probing to see whether Ms. Areu was interested in a sexual relationship,” the lawsuit states. “Ms. Areu awkwardly sidestepped Mr. Carlson’s advances and declined to spend the night at his hotel. Mr. Carlson promptly retaliated against Ms. Areu, who was featured on his show only three times in 2019 and has not appeared once in 2020.”
Carlson was not the only one to allegedly swipe career opportunities after being rejected. The lawsuit also says that Howard Kurtz, who hosts Fox News’ “Media Buzz,” offered to giver her career advice, but only if she came alone to his hotel room. When she suggested that they meet another way, he stopped connecting with her. Areu says something similar happened with political analyst Gianno Caldwell, who said he would introduce her to pundit and Fox News regular Ann Coulter on the condition that she went out with him.
Eckhart and Areu are now seeking undisclosed damages for a hostile work environment, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation against all the defendants. Henry and Fox News are also cited for sex trafficking, and Henry once more for gender-based violence.
Responses to the Lawsuit
Henry’s attorney, Catherine Foti, defended him against the allegations Eckhart has put forth.
“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,” Foti said in a statement.
“The evidence in this case will demonstrate that Ms. Eckhart initiated and completely encouraged a consensual relationship,” the statement continued. “Ed Henry looks forward to presenting actual facts and evidence, which will contradict the fictional accounts contained in the complaint.”
For its part, Fox News said an independent investigation was conducted by an outside law firm. Based on its findings, the network believes that the accusations against Carlson, Hannity, Kurtz, and 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,” Fox News said.
When it came to the claims being levied at Henry, the network said that “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.”
Eckhart and Areu are represented by Douglas Wigdor and Michael Willemin, who have previously worked on cases against Fox News, including lawsuits against Roger Ailes. Both women say that being vocal about their experiences has been difficult.
“My decision to speak out was not an easy one, but I refuse to let fear of retaliation, victim shaming and further attacks intimidate me into remaining silent,” Eckhart said. “I am hopeful that my decision to file this action will result in positive change or women at Fox, and for all victims in the workplace.”
Areu made a statement with a similar sentiment, adding that she “could not stay silent given the tremendous harm that Mr. Henry and others at Fox News have caused for women affiliated with the company.”
See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (Politico) (New York Times)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.
See what others are saying: (Heavy)(CBS 58) (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Medical Groups, Local Leaders Push for Healthcare Workers and Public Employees To Get Vaccinated
The move comes as COVID cases have nearly quadrupled in the last month due to the rapid spread of the highly infectious delta variant.
Increased Calls for Mandatory Vaccinations in Certain Sectors
More than 50 of America’s largest medical groups representing millions of healthcare workers issued a statement Monday calling for employers of all health and long-term care providers to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.
The groups, which included the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and 55 others, cited contagious new variants — including delta — and low vaccination rates.
“Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures,” they wrote.
The call to action comes as new COVID cases have almost quadrupled during the month of July, jumping from just around 13,000 infections a day at the beginning of this month to more than 50,000.
While the vast majority of new infections and hospitalizations are among those who have not received the vaccines, many healthcare workers remain unvaccinated. According to data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, over 38% of nursing home staff were not fully vaccinated as of July 11.
An analysis by WebMD and Medscape Medical News found that around 25% of hospital workers who were in contact with patients had not been vaccinated by the end of May when vaccinations became widely available.
In addition to calls for medical professionals to get vaccinated, some local leaders have also begun to impose mandates for public employees as cases continue spiking.
Last month, San Francisco announced that it was requiring all city workers to get vaccinated. Also on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that all municipal employees — including police officers and teachers — must either get the jab or agree to weekly testing by the time school starts in September.
Dr. Fauci Says U.S. Officials Are Considering Revising Mask Guidance for Vaccinated People
Numerous top U.S. health officials have applauded efforts by local leaders to mitigate further spread of the coronavirus, including the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who confirmed Sunday that federal officials are actively considering whether to revise federal masking guidelines to recommend that vaccinated Americans wear face coverings in public settings.
In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who are vaccinated do not need to mask in public. Although that was a non-binding recommendation, many states and cities that had not already lifted restrictions on masking began to do so shortly after.
But now, local leaders in areas seeing big spikes have begun reimposing mask mandates — even for those who are vaccinated — including major counties like Los Angeles and St. Louis.
In his remarks Sunday, Fauci also emphasized that, despite claims from many conservatives, those efforts are in line with the federal recommendations, which leave space for local leaders to issue their own rules.
While Fauci and other top U.S. public health officials have encouraged local governments to take action, Republican lawmakers in several states are taking steps to limit the ability of local leaders and public health officials to take certain mitigation measures.
According to the Network for Public Health Law, at least 15 state legislatures have passed or are considering bills to limit the legal authority of public health agencies — and that does not even include unilateral action taken by governors.
Some of the leaders of states suffering the biggest spikes have banned local officials from imposing their own mask mandates, like Arkansas, which has the highest per capita cases in the country right now, as well as Florida, which currently ranks third.
Notably, some of the laws proposed or passed by Republicans could go beyond just preventing local officials from trying to mitigate surges in COVID cases and may have major implications for other public health crises.
For example, according to The Washington Post, a North Dakota law that bans mask mandates applies to other breakouts — even tuberculosis — while a new Montana law also bars the use of quarantine for people who have been exposed to an infectious disease but have not yet tested positive.