- 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)
Soldier Charged With Assault After Shoving Black Man in Viral Video
- Authorities charged Army soldier Jonathan Pentland with third-degree assault and battery on Wednesday after a viral video showed him shoving a Black man while yelling at him to leave a South Carolina neighborhood.
- Many people, including dozens who protested outside Pentland’s home this week, condemned the confrontation as another instance of someone being attacked for “walking while Black.”
- Pentland and others claimed the unidentified man was picking a fight with neighbors, which the man denied, but police said nothing that may have happened earlier justified Pentland’s actions.
- If convicted, Pentland faces a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.
A U.S. soldier was charged with assault on Wednesday after a video that circulated online showed him yelling at and shoving a Black man in a South Carolina neighborhood.
Footage of the April 8 incident was posted to social media Monday. It shows the Army soldier, Jonathan Pentland, confronting the unidentified man and telling him to leave the neighborhood.
The other man explains that he’s just walking through the area and doing nothing wrong, but Pentland becomes increasingly aggressive. “You better walk away,” he shouts at the man after shoving him.
“You either walk away, or I’m gonna carry your ass out of here,” he continues before adding, “You’re in the wrong neighborhood motherf*ker. Get out!”
The man then tries to tell Pentland that he lives in the neighborhood, and Pentland then asks for his address, which he does not give.
The confrontation continues with Pentland cursing and getting in the man’s face. As he does so, the man says that Pentland smells drunk.
It’s unclear what exactly led up to the confrontation, but in the video, a woman off-camera says the man “picked a fight with some random young lady that’s one of our neighbors.”
“I don’t even know who she is. Nobody picked a fight when someone ran up on me,” the man replies. Another woman off-screen then encourages the man to leave with her, saying, “What’s your name? Come on. You don’t want no trouble.”
Video Triggers Protests Outside Pentland’s Home
After this video spread online, many social media users condemned it as another instance of someone being attacked for “walking while Black.”
In fact, protesters even began demonstrating outside of Penland’s home. Those protests started off peaceful, but deputies were then called after 8 p.m. because unknown individuals vandalized the house. That forced police to shut down access to the area and remove Pentland’s family to another location.
As far as the viral video, deputies were told that the man approached “several neighbors in a threatening manner” and that someone had asked Pentland to “intervene.”
Police did confirm that there are two reports of alleged assault against the unnamed man Pentland shoved that are being investigated. However, they also added that the man has “an underlying medical condition that may explain the behavior exhibited in the alleged incidents.”
Either way, police said whatever happened earlier did not justify Pentland’s actions. He was ultimately arrested Wednesday morning and was charged with third-degree assault and battery. He faces a $500 fine and 30 days in jail if convicted.
“We’re not going to let people be bullies in our community,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said at a news conference Wednesday. “And if you are, you’re going to answer for it, and that’s what we’ve done in this case.”
On top of that, the Justice Department reportedly was investigating. Pentland’s Commanding General even issued a statement condemning his behavior, adding that Pentland “brought disrespect to @fortjackson our Army and the trust with the public we serve.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (ABC News) (Huffpost)
Texas Students Created Snapchat Group To ‘Slave Trade’ Black Classmates
- Freshmen at a Texas high school set up a Snapchat group to pretend to sell their Black classmates.
- A screenshot showed the group name being changed from “Slave Trade” with emojis of a Black man, a gun, and a white police officer to “[racial slur] Farm” and then “[racial slur] Auction.”
- That image also shows a person saying they would spend $100 on a peer while a second student said they would spend $1 on another, adding “would be better if his hair wasn’t so bad.”
- The school faced backlash for initially describing it as “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment,” without acknowledging the racism. The district later issued a stronger condemnation and said the students were disciplined but did not list specific consequences.
Racist Snapchat Group
Aledo high school students at Daniel Ninth Grade Campus in Northern Texas are making headlines for setting up a Snapchat group to pretend to sell their Black classmates.
A screenshot reviewed by several local news outlets showed the group name being changed from “Slave Trade” with emojis of a Black man, a gun, and a white police officer to “[racial slur] Farm” and then “[racial slur] Auction.”
That image also shows a person saying they would spend $100 on a peer. A second student said they would spend $1 on another, adding “would be better if his hair wasn’t so bad.”
At least one student who was mentioned as being “sold” in the chats was later sent screenshots of the conversations.
According to a report from the Star-Telegram reported last week, when the issue was brought to Principal Carolyn Ansley, she sent parents an email that didn’t mention the Snapchat group but only cited “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment.”
That caused frustrations because parents felt the issue of racism wasn’t being addressed or acknowledged.
Mark Grubbs, a father of three former students, told KXAS he was sickened by the students’ actions. Grubbs, who is Black, also said he had taken his children out of the district over other racist incidents in the past.
“My son being called out of his name and what not and it got to the point he didn’t mind fighting and that didn’t sit right with me and my wife. My son was never a fighter,” he said.
After the incident garnered media attention, the Aledo Independent School District issued a statement.
The district said it learned of the incident more than two weeks ago and started an investigation that involved law enforcement.
“There is no room for racism or hatred in the Aledo ISD, period,” it added. “Using inappropriate, offensive and racially charged language and conduct is completely unacceptable and is prohibited by district policy.”
District officials spoke with the students responsible as well as their parents, saying they “made it clear that statements and conduct that targets a student because of his or her race is not only prohibited but also has a profound impact on the victims.”
The district also said it assigned disciplinary consequences, though it did not explicitly state what those consequences were or state how many students were involved.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (ABC) (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
What You Need To Know About the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Pause
- The CDC and the FDA have issued a joint recommendation to pause distribution of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine amid reports that six women experienced “extremely rare” blood clots after receiving the single-dose shot.
- The vast majority of the 6.8 million Americans who were given the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have reported minor to no side effects, and no direct link has been established between the vaccine and blood clots at this time.
- The two agencies are expected to release updated guidance in the coming days.
- Several states and cities are now automatically giving the two-dose Pfizer vaccine to people who were scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week.
CDC and FDA Recommend J&J Vaccine Halt
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Food and Drug Administration, released a statement Tuesday recommending a pause on the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.
So far, 6.8 million people in the U.S. have been vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine, most with zero or only mild side effects.
The updated guidance comes after six women, all between the ages of 18 to 48, experienced what both agencies described as “extremely rare” blood clots six to 13 days after being vaccinated. One of those women has died and another is in critical condition.
Neither the CDC nor the FDA has confirmed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the cause of these blood clots; rather, they said this guidance comes “out of an abundance of caution.”
That’s also in line with Johnson & Johnson itself, which said it’s aware of the reports but added that “no clear causal relationship has been established between these rare events.” As a precaution, Johnson & Johnson has also now delayed the rollout of its vaccine in Europe.
What Happens From Here?
Principal Deputy Director of the CDC Anne Schuchat said further recommendations will come quickly.
FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock echoed that statement, saying, “We expect it to be a matter of days for this pause.”
Wednesday, a CDC committee will convene to discuss the cases and assess their potential significance.
When asked if the government was overreacting to just six cases out of nearly 7 million vaccinations (a criticism made by some online), Schuchat said the CDC pulled its recommendation specifically because the type of blood clots seen in these 6 women requires special treatment, so “it was of the utmost importance to us to get the word out.”
In the meantime, both agencies are urging Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients to contact their doctors if they experience any combination of severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath.
What If I Had A J&J Appointment?
Both agencies, as well as other health officials, are still urging unvaccinated people to take the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines when available in their area.
The White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator has said that 28 million doses of those vaccines will be made available this week. Notably, that’s more than enough for the country to continue giving 3 million shots a day.
If you had an appointment scheduled to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you’re likely not completely out of luck.
For example, while D.C. vaccination sites are canceling all Johnson & Johnson appointments between Tuesday and this Saturday, the health department there has said it’ll send out invitations on Wednesday to reschedule.
Similar situations were reported in Virginia and Maryland, though some vaccination sites in Maryland are still honoring existing appointments by automatically giving people Pfizer instead. That’s also a process that is now being conducted in places like New York State and Memphis.