ABC star Ryan Seacrest has vehemently denied sexual misconduct accusations made against him by a former stylist, but the allegations are not going away, and may impact his job at this weekend's Academy Awards.
A former co-worker of Seacrest's accuser spoke to NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday to defend the TV mogul’s accuser, saying he witnessed inappropriate behavior on “multiple occasions," and some publicists reportedly will be steering their clients clear of the lightning-rod red carpet reporter this weekend when he hosts E!'s Oscars special.
Suzie Hardy told Variety she landed her dream job as Seacrest’s personal stylist at E! News in 2007, only to be fired in 2013 after making graphic complaints of harassment to E’s Human Resources department. Now a former colleague is backing up her accusations against the ABC star.
"She would go to tie his shoe and Ryan would shove her head toward his crotch. I saw that more than once,” the man told “Today.”
The man, who worked with Seacrest, said that he witnessed Seacrest holding Hardy in a “bear hug from behind” back in 2008. “She yelled, ‘Get off of me,’ she was trying to get away from him. I could see an erect penis in his underwear,” he said.
The source described Hardy as “visibly shaken” and he said he urged her to contact Human Resources.
NBC News reported that it has verified the man “worked alongside” Seacrest.
Immediately after airing the comments accusing Seacrest of misconduct, NBC aired footage that was provided by “a source close to Seacrest” as a rebuttal. NBC’s Kate Snow said the source claims the video shows that Seacrest is “uncomfortable” with Hardy tying his shoes. NBC also noted that people in Seacrest’s camp dismiss the source as a “friend of Hardy” who is a “disgruntled” former E! employee.
It should be noted that NBC’s “Today” is owned by NBCUniversal, which is the parent company of E!, where the alleged harassment occurred. NBC News withheld the man’s name because he still works in Hollywood and “fears retaliation” from Seacrest.
Misconduct claims were first levied against Seacrest last November. E!, where Seacrest was working at the time of the allegations, said it had investigated and found “insufficient evidence to support the claims against Seacrest.” However, Hardy’s comments to Variety provided explicit details to the accusations.
Hardy accused the ABC star of grinding his erect penis against her while he was only wearing underwear, groping her vagina and slapping her so hard on the bottom that she suffered for hours from a large, visible welt.
The source told NBC he did not witness the slap but was told about it shortly after it allegedly occurred. The source also told NBC he was interviewed during the E! investigation that found “insufficient evidence” against Seacrest.
Seacrest has denied the accusations, saying Hardy is simply looking for a payout.
"This person who has accused me of horrible things tried to buy her silence by asking for money on multiple occasions — I refused,” he said in a statement. I have worked extremely hard to achieve my success and I don’t take my opportunities for granted. I don’t want to accuse anyone of not telling the truth but in this case, I have no choice but to again deny the claims against me, remind people that I was recused of any wrongdoing, and put the matter to rest."
Hardy's attorney said there's absolutely no evidence to support claims she demanded hush money.
While similar accusations have sidelined careers during the #MeToo movement, the claims against Seacrest have so far gone largely ignored by emploerys and business partners. He is still scheduled to host ABC’s reboot of “American Idol” starting next month and continues to co-host “Live with Kelly and Ryan.”
If Seacrest ends up being the latest powerful man to have his career derailed by sexual misconduct, it would be a significant blow to both NBCUniversal and Disney’s ABC. In addition to earning eight-figures for his ABC hosting duties, Seacrest is also responsible for the “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” cash cow on E!. The numerous roles across two prominent companies make him, arguably, the most powerful man in entertainment.
Seacrest is also scheduled to work the red carpet for E! on Sunday’s Academy Awards despite a New York Post report that Hollywood publicists will avoid him at all costs.
“Usually Ryan is the one you want… but there are so many outlets on that carpet, why risk it? There’s plenty of other places for clients to get the exposure,” a PR “powerhouse” told the paper.
ABC did not immediately respond when asked if it would launch its own investigation.