- 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)
New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns
- The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
- The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
- The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.
CDC Issues Warning
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus.
The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.
Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.
Mitigating Spread of Variant
“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”
The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.
“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.
“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)
Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)
- Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
- By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
- Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
Rick Snyder Charges
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.
The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.
He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.
The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.
Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.
His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.
8 Others Charged
Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.
Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:
- Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
- Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services.
- Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
- Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
- Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
- Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.
Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.
At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.
It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)
Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack
- At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
- Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
- Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive
At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol.
Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus.
On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one.
Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested.
More Cases Follow
Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions.
“Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote.
“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added.
“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown.
“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.
Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks.
Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.