Explicit text messages Fox News anchor Ed Henry allegedly sent to an employee who accused him of raping her have been laid bare in a bombshell lawsuit.
Former Fox Business producer Jennifer Eckhart claims that Henry – who was fired from the network on July 1 after an unnamed employee accused him of sexual misconduct – handcuffed her and raped her in a hotel room in 2017 after trying to coerce her into a sexual relationship.
The complaint includes a string of WhatsApp messages Henry, 49, allegedly sent to Eckhart in which he calls her his ‘little w***e’ and refers to their relationship in disturbingly graphic terms.
‘Good long session last time. Left you bruised batter dazed sated begging for more,’ he wrote in one message. Another states: ‘When u r owned u don’t get a choice.’
Henry’s lawyer, Catherine Foti, responded to the lawsuit by saying Eckhart ‘initiated and completely encouraged a consensual relationship’ with the anchor, who has been married to his wife Shirley since 2010 and has two children from a previous marriage.
Foti said Henry is in possession of evidence that will contradict Eckhart’s ‘fictional accounts’ – including ‘graphic photos and other aggressively suggestive communications’ that she sent to him. Henry has not yet released such photos or communications and his lawyer says they will not do so until the case is in court.
‘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.
Eckhart’s lawyer Michael J Willemin hit back with his own statement accusing Foti of ‘engaging in the type of injustice that the #MeToo movement has worked so hard to curb’ by invoking a rape myth that a victim would never send her attacker friendly or consensual-looking messages.
Willemin referenced the Harvey Weinstein trial – a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement – as proof that just because a person sends positive messages to an attacker before or after a rape does not mean they are not a victim.
In his trial earlier this year, Weinstein was found guilty of sexually assaulting production assistant Mimi Haleyi after his lawyers tried to argue that the encounter in question was consensual because she had sent him ‘loving’ emails afterward.
Willemin went on to say: ‘[Foti’s] statement also seeks to slut-shame Ms. Eckhart and suggests that she was asking to be violently raped. Nothing could be further from the truth, and it is precisely because of these types of attacks that many victims of sexual assault and rape suffer in silence.’
Asked about Willemin’s scathing statement, Foti told DailyMail.com on Tuesday: ‘Mr. Willemin and his client well know that these allegations are not comparable to those involving Harvey Weinstein, and that the claim of rape in this case is simply false.
‘The fact that we are stating that Ms. Eckhart consented to the activity is not slut-shaming; it is just the truth. Ms. Eckhart knows that the messages are more than “consensual looking”; they will prove her consent, and any claims to the contrary will be disproven.’
Willemen filed the federal lawsuit on Monday in the US District Court for Southern New York on behalf of Eckhart, a former associate producer at Fox Business, and Cathy Areu, a frequent guest on the network.
Areu claims she was sexually harassed by Henry and several other men at the network – including star anchors Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson and journalists Howard Kurtz and Gianno Caldwell.
The lawsuit names Fox News, Henry, Hannity, Carlson and Kurtz as defendants.
‘It is widely documented in the public record that Fox News has not only cultivated and fostered sexual harassment and misconduct, but has consistently accepted and rewarded it,’ the complaint states.
‘Nevertheless, Fox News would have the public believe that it is a different place from the Fox News that was run by former disgraced Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.’
A spokesperson for the network issued a statement about the lawsuit to DailyMail.com which denies the plaintiffs’ claims and vows to fight them ‘vigorously’.
‘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,’ the spokesperson said.
‘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.’
Willemin, whose firm is representing both Eckhart and Areu, responded to the Fox News statement with his own.
‘As alleged in the complaint Fox News was aware of complaints against Mr. Henry involving sexually inappropriate conduct before he raped Ms. Henry and sent graphic and sexually explicit photographs, videos and texts to Ms. Areu. The complaint asserts that Fox News did nothing,’ Willemin said.
‘Even putting that aside, the complaint notes that Mr. Henry engaged in this unlawful and egregious conduct while employed by Fox News. It is outrageous and contrary to common sense that Fox News purports not to take responsibility for his actions. Ultimately, we are confident that a jury will hold Fox News responsible for the acts of its employees, as well as its own conduct in responding to these allegations.
‘Fox News claims – as it almost always does – that an “independent” investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing. Of course, Fox News will have paid the investigator, who also happens to be a management-side employment lawyer.
‘In other words, a significant part of this “investigators” time is spent defending companies like Fox News against allegations such as the ones brought herein. Moreover, the investigator did not even speak with either of our clients, even though both Ms. Eckhart and Ms. Areu offered to meet with him under reasonable conditions.
‘We call on Fox News to work with our clients to retain a truly independent investigator who is transparent. The results of any such investigation should be made public for the world to see.’
The Fox News spokesperson issued a second statement in response to Willemin’s: ‘The investigators immediately requested in writing the opportunity to speak directly with each plaintiff with their attorneys present, and for the plaintiffs to provide them with any evidence (i.e., texts or emails) supporting their claims.
‘The Wigdor Firm declined, informing the investigators that neither plaintiff would be allowed to be interviewed, unless the investigators promised that anything either plaintiff said could not be used in any future litigation or proceeding.
‘Because that condition is unreasonable, as evidence cannot be suppressed or hidden in this manner in litigation, our investigators were not given access to speak to either plaintiff. In addition, the Wigdor Firm declined to provide the investigators with any of the emails, texts or other evidence they requested.’
The lawsuit begins by describing how Henry ‘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’.
It claims he first began flirting with her in 2014 after she had graduated and that although she was ‘not romantically interested’ in him, she joined him for a drink after he persisted in his advances.
She claims Henry invited her to his New York Marriott Marquis hotel room, ‘ripped off her clothes’ and she had sex with him ‘fearing that her career would be over if she refused.’
Eckhart claims that Henry forced her to perform oral sex on him in a guest office in the New York City offices in September 2015.
‘When she would not comply voluntarily, he sexually assaulted her on office property, and raped her at a hotel where Fox News frequently lodged its visiting employees, thereby facilitating, whether knowingly or unknowingly, Mr. Henry’s conduct,’ the lawsuit states.
Henry took a four month leave of absence in 2016 after his extra-marital affair with a Vegas cocktail waitress was revealed.
The lawsuit states that upon his return Henry sent inappropriate messages to Eckhart and expressed an interest in bondage.
‘In the Fall of 2016, Mr. Henry sent Ms. Eckhart a link to a song entitled “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.” Ms. Eckhart, confused, asked Mr. Henry if he was trying to tell her something. He responded, “That I want you to ride ME?” “Yesss” “I am telling you that!”‘ the suit states.
‘Mr. Henry not only leveraged this imbalance of power for control over his victim, Ms. Eckhart, but asked her to be his “sex slave” and his “little w***e,” and threatened punishment and retaliation if Ms. Eckhart did not comply with his sexual demands,’ it is claimed alongside the screen grabs of WhatsApp messages.
Examples included messages from Valentine’s Day 2017: ‘F**k you and your safe word,’ followed by ‘You will know when I’m done.’
Another screen grab showed three messages all with the same 2.39pm time stamp: “#obey,” ‘Or’ and ‘#discipline.’
A set of late afternoon messages show ‘owned & submissive’ sent at 4.10pm and ‘more anal -‘ at 4.11pm.
In reply to a series of messages that read: ‘Whatever when u r owned u dont get a “choice”‘ the person whose phone the screen grabs were taken from replies ‘you don’t own me.’
The lawsuit claims that in 2017, they had drinks together and Henry invited Eckhart to ‘to take a walk and discuss her career at his hotel.’ The documents state that Eckhart agreed ‘out of concern for her job’.
During that encounter, Henry is accused of applying metal handcuffs to her wrists, throwing her on the bed and taking photographs of her nude, against her will. She claims the photographs were to be used for blackmail.
The legal document claims that Eckhart ‘pleaded for him to stop’ and deleted the images but he ‘proceeded to rape Ms. Eckhart while she was still restrained and helpless in handcuffs.’
‘While raping Ms. Eckhart, Mr. Henry performed sadistic acts on Ms. Eckhart, which included, among many other things, violently hitting her in the face multiple times,’ the lawsuit states.
She claims that despite telling him he left ‘a mark on her buttocks’, ‘bruise on her leg,’ among other injuries to her, he continued to send the messages.
It shows other messages claimed to have been sent by him which state: ‘Will let you know if/when avail so you can get slapped around some more.’
An additional screen shot reads: ‘Bite your tongue. You know who your daddy is. Good long session last time. Left you bruised dazed batter sated begging for more #perfect.’
The Monday filing states that Eckhart ‘made every possible effort to cease all communications’ with Henry after the alleged incident but it claims he ‘continued to harass and retaliate against her for rejecting his continued advances.’
Eckhart claims that when she told the HR department that she was ‘experiencing a toxic work environment’ in February this year, she never heard back from them. The lawsuit alleges that the company retaliated by ‘informing her that her employment would be terminated’ in June.
Fox claimed in its statement on Monday that it learned of the claims on June 25.
The Monday lawsuit further alleges that Eckhart’s lawyers described Henry’s alleged assaults ‘in graphic and specific detail’ to Fox News and provided text messages in which he threatened further abuse.
Henry was fired by Fox News earlier this month based on findings of an internal investigation, both the lawsuit and the network said.
But the lawsuit contends that the network had been aware of Henry’s alleged sexual misconduct at least since early 2017, when multiple other women came forward with complaints about him.
Instead of disciplining Henry after those complaints, Fox News promoted him to a higher position, the lawsuit says.
Eckhart alluded to the suit in an Instagram post on Monday that showed her face half obscured by a shadow.
‘Stepping out of the darkness and into my truth,’ she wrote. ‘I stand for all victims who have been mistreated, harassed, assaulted, and even worse, at the hands of those in power, and the institutions that continue to support them.
‘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. I am hopeful that my decision to file this action will result in positive change for women at Fox, and for all victims in the workplace.’
The second portion of the suit outlines allegations brought by Areu, who said Henry sent her ‘a slew of wildly inappropriate messages throughout the first half of this year’.
One of the messages featured a video of a mock job interview where the woman ‘exposes her vagina’ and the interviewer ‘indicates that she got the job.’
Areu claims that in the messages Henry made it clear that he ‘was telling her, in no uncertain terms, that he would assist her career if she had sex with him’, the suit states.
The Monday filing claims that in a May 21 phone call Henry called her a ‘jerk’ and cut off contact after she rejected his advances.
‘Mr. Henry was far from the only Fox News anchor who subjected Ms. Areu to sexual harassment,’ it adds.
‘She was also subjected to inappropriate sexual harassment and retaliation by Mr. Hannity, Mr. Carlson, Mr. Kurtz and Gianno Caldwell.’
The suit describes how Areu ‘was a relatively regular face on The Sean Hannity Show until March 8, 2018’ – the day Hannity allegedly harassed her in the studio.
‘Mr. Hannity, on set and in front of the entire studio crew – and completely unsolicited – threw $100 on the set desk,’ it states.
‘He then began calling out to the men in the room and demanding that someone take Ms. Areu out on a date for drinks at Del Friscos.
‘He repeatedly yelled: “Who wants to take her on a date?” “Take her on a date to Del Friscos.”
‘Ms. Areu was completely mortified and made clear that she was incredibly uncomfortable with Mr. Hannity’s misogynistic behavior by quietly pleading with one of her friends in the room to accept the money so that the humiliation would end.’
Images in the lawsuit purportedly show that $100 bill.
Areu alleges that in December 2018, Tucker Carlson ‘hardly making any effort to hide his intentions’ propositioned her on the set of his show by telling her that he was staying alone in a hotel room.
‘Without question, Mr. Carlson was probing to see whether Ms. Areu was interested in a sexual relationship,’ the suit 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.’
The suit goes on to allege how Howard Kurtz, host of Media Buzz, invited Areu to have drinks in the lobby bar of a hotel he was staying at in July 2019.
But when she declined to go to his hotel room and instead offered to have Kurtz join her and a friend at dinner, Kurtz declined, and the following day he allegedly told her: ‘You’re the only woman here who won’t come to my hotel room.’
She’d appeared on his show numerous times since 2017 but after that incident Areu was only invited to appear on Kurtz’ show approximately three times, despite having been a ‘relative regular’ beforehand.
The final allegation in Areu’s section of the suit alleges that Gianno Caldwell, a Fox News political analyst, offered to introduce her to fellow media personality Ann Coulter if she agreed to go on a date with him.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for emotional distress, loss of income and reputational harm, as well as punitive damages.
It also seeks a declaratory judgment that the defendants violated local and federal laws.
Former Fox News personality Gretchen Carlson, who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit claiming that she was fired for refusing advances from network founder Roger Ailes in July 2016, tweeted her support for Eckhart and Areu on Monday.
‘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.’
Father-of-two Henry took a break to work on his marriage to NPR’s Chief Washington Editor Shirley Hung after Natalia Lima, 42, revealed she had a ten-month affair with Henry between 2015 and February 2016.
In May 2016, Lima spoke out about the affair after she met the political journalist at a Las Vegas gentleman’s club.
Lima performed steamy $2,000-an-hour routines for Henry in a private VIP ‘Skybox’ at Sapphire Las Vegas strip club before they engaged in a secret love affair at luxury hotels when the veteran newsman visited Sin City.
Henry and his wife married in 2010 after meeting while they both worked in CNN.
Lima claimed that she and Henry first met in 2011, shortly after the newsman married his wife at Las Vegas’ Wynn Hotel, but only embarked on an affair in 2015.
‘Whenever he was in town, we would pretty much just have sex. He has a really high sex drive,’ Lima told In Touch magazine, stating that they first stayed in touch over social media.
She alleged that the pair even slept together in the hotel where he had married his wife.
Lima said she was left devastated when he broke it off in February 2016 – and felt ‘used’ by Henry when she revealed the affair four months later.
The reports of the affair caused former Fox CEO Roger Ailes to publicly rebuke him, stating that ‘this raises serious questions about Ed’s lack of judgment, especially given his position as a journalist’.
Ailes was also later forced out of Fox News when he was accused of sexual assault and harassment by numerous women, including former Fox hosts Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson.
On Henry’s return, he shifted to the position of chief national correspondent, often appearing as a co-host on Fox & Friends Weekend before taking over America’s Newsroom last December.
Ailes and former Fox prime-time star Bill O’Reilly were previous ousted from the network over claims of sexual misconduct.
O’Reilly left the network in 2017 after it was revealed that several women received financial settlements after claiming he harassed them.
In May 2017, it was also revealed that O’Reilly’s ex-wife claimed in an affidavit filed during the couple’s divorce proceedings that the disgraced host physically assaulted her when she found him having phone sex.
Two of the women who received settlements after accusing O’Reilly of harassment, Andrea Mackris and Juliet Huddy, stated that they believed he was masturbating when he called them up for unwanted phone sex conversations.
In 2019, the movie Bombshell was released based on the sexual harassment allegations made by Fox News female employees against network founder Ailes.
Kelly has claimed that Ailes, who died in May 2017, sexually harassed her multiple times during her tenure at Fox News, including trying to force her to kiss him on the lips.
She left Fox News in January 2017. Her former co-worker Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes in July 2016, claiming she was fired for refusing his advances.
She signed an NDA as part of her reported $20million out of court settlement with the network.
Tucker Carlson attacked the New York Times on his Monday night show, claiming they are to run a story about the host and his family.
Carlson, 51, ended his program saying that he very rarely made the story about himself but that he was going to make an exception after hearing that the newspaper was planning to expose where he and his family live in Washington D.C.
‘As a matter of journalism, there is no conceivable justification for a story like that,’ Carlson said of the proposed story, which he said is due to run later this week.
The conservative host went on to allege that the planned report was based on a personal animosity and a dislike for his politics.
He said: ‘The paper is not alleging we’ve done anything wrong and we haven’t. We pay our taxes. We like our neighbors. We’ve never had a dispute with anyone.
‘So why is the New York Times doing a story on the location of my family’s house? Well, you know why. To hurt us, to injure my wife and kids so that I will shut up and stop disagreeing with them. They believe in force. We’ve learned that.’
Tucker responds to intrusive reporting by The New York Times. pic.twitter.com/xj4z69G9cA
Carlson noted how the last time his address became public, his house was descended upon by antifa protesters who gathered outside his property after a ‘left-wing journalist’ published his address.
‘They vandalized our home. They threatened my wife. She called 911 while hiding in the closet,’ he told viewers. Carlson said the harassment eventually forced the family to sell their home and move.
The host then identified both the Times journalist and accompanying photographer assigned to working on the report.
Carlson said that the editors at the Times ‘know exactly what will happen to my family when it does run’ but don’t care because ‘they want my show off the air.’
‘If one of my children gets hurt because of a story they wrote, they won’t consider it collateral damage – they know it’s the whole point of the exercise,’ he said. ‘To inflict pain on our family, to terrorize us, to control what we say. That’s the kind of people they are.’
‘How they would feel if we told you where they live, if we put pictures of their homes on the air?’ Carlson asked in a veiled threat to the Times.
‘What if we publicize the home address of every one of the soulless robot editors of The New York Times who assigned and manage this incitement to violence against my family?’ he questioned.
‘What about the media editor, Jim Windolf? We could do that. We know who they are. Will that qualify as journalism?’
The Times has issued a statement after Carlson’s remarks were aired.
‘While we do not confirm what may or may not publish in future editions, The Times has not and does not plan to expose any residence of Tucker Carlson’s, which Carlson was aware of before tonight’s broadcast.’
During his show, the first one after taking a fishing trip vacation last week, Carlson did not address any of the controversy the news network finds itself in.
On Monday night, a lawsuit accused him of sexually harassing a frequent female guest.
Cathy Areu, a frequent guest on the network. Areu claims she was sexually harassed several men at the network including Sean Hannity, Ed Henry and Carlson.
Carlson allegedly propositioned her on the set of his show by telling her that he was staying alone in a hotel room. Areu claims that her appearances on his show were drastically cut when she declined the invitation.
A spokesperson for the network issued a statement about the lawsuit to DailyMail.com which denies the Areu’s claims and vows to fight them ‘vigorously’.
It’s not the only scandal to hit Carlson. Earlier this month, his show’s former top writer resigned after CNN found he had written a series of racist and repugnant tweets under a pseudonym.
Carlson said that the online comments by former writer Blake Neff were wrong, but had nothing to do with his show.