By Brian Flood, ,
Published February 28, 2018
Ryan Seacrest has finally commented on the newly-detailed allegations of sexual misconduct against him as one of his fellow ABC stars calls for him to step aside from his red carpet duties at Sunday's Academy Awards.
The host made his usual appearance on ABC's “Live with Kelly and Ryan” on Tuesday, but stayed silent on the shocking allegations of sexual misconduct by his former stylist, laid out in graphic detail in “Variety” on Monday. Instead, the star addressed the allegations later in the day by way of a public statement.
"Much has been said about the #MeToo and Times Up movement(s) and the importance of providing women and men with the opportunity to share their stories of workplace misconduct, in an effort to change our culture and the systemic inequalities that exist. I absolutely support this cause unequivocally and applaud all the brave souls who have come forward to share their stories," Seacrest said in a statement to Fox News.
"Sadly, last fall I became one of the accused, which I promptly revealed proactively to the network involved and to the public. And to be equally clear, those accusations were then investigated by an independent third-party over the course of a two-month process and involved dozens of interviews that included me, the accuser and countless others. Ultimately, my name was cleared," he continued. "I eagerly participated in the investigation in order to demonstrate my innocence because I know my truth, and I believe in due process.
"Yesterday, Variety published a salacious story that revealed the specific claims against me for the first time – even though an independent third-party investigator found insufficient evidence to support the claims. Much to my dismay, Variety didn’t speak with me or bother to speak with other credible witnesses or even ask for any of the evidence that was obtained during the investigation when offered, all of which clearly challenged the veracity of the claims made against me.
"This person who has accused me of horrible things tried to buy her silence by asking for money on multiple occasions — I refused. 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."
Until now, Seacrest has maintained a stony silence about the allegations since denying the claims in a Feb. 5 guest column in The Hollywood Reporter headlined, “What Happened After I was Wrongly Accused of Harassment.” ABC has not issued a public statement about the allegations, but one of its stars wasn't shy about speaking up.
“Scandal” actress Bellamy Young said the veteran host should “step aside and let someone of equal talent, who is beyond reproach,” handle E!’s red carpet duties at Sunday’s Academy Awards.
“It feels like the rules have changed,” Young told a Variety reporter at an event on Monday night.
Bellamy later apologized to Seacrest in a statement to Fox News in which she lamented speaking before knowing all the facts of the situation.
“I spoke up because I feel deeply that the secrecy of shame plays a significant part in what has kept this shift from happening before now,” Young said. “But never has there been a more urgent time to make sure our voices are used for truth, and I failed in that regard Monday night.
“This is a major crisis. ABC should have ordered him to go on ‘GMA’ Tuesday morning, live at 7:30, and deny the allegations vociferously”
“… I apologize to Ryan Seacrest. He has been exonerated from the allegations I was told about on the carpet, so my opinion is different now.”
Yet across the board, ABC brass have stayed silent as its biggest star faces the worst crisis in his career. ABC’s “Good Morning America” did not mention the scandal, while it was heavily covered on rival network’s morning programs. The spotlight on Seacrest is unusually harsh, as next month the star will host the make-or-break reboot of “American Idol” which beleaguered ABC hopes will give it a desperately needed hit.
ABC declined comment when reached by Fox News.
Instead of discussing the sex allegations on Tuesday morning, Seacrest and his co-host, Kelly Ripa, opened “Live” with a lengthy conversation about getting their teeth whitened.
Seacrest said that the doctor who whitened his teeth “looked like McDreamy,” a co-promotional reference to a sexy doctor who used to be on ABC’s “Grey's Anatomy,” before explaining that he has the “pain threshold of a Care Bear” because the procedure was excruciating.
Misconduct claims were first levied against Seacrest last November. NBCUniversal’s 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.” But Monday’s report described in horrifying detail what Variety said are allegations of “years of unwanted sexual aggression” by Seacrest against his longtime personal stylist.
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. 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.
ABC does not appear to be looking into any allegations and did not respond when asked if an internal investigation would be launched. An ABC insider confirmed to Fox News that Seacrest will continue to host “Live with Kelly and Ryan” as scheduled and will host “American Idol” starting on March 11.
Media analyst Jeffrey McCall told Fox News that it’s “odd” that ABC is not investigating the allegations and has been “so slow” to respond.
“Of course, ABC shouldn't speak comprehensively until they have a handle on the facts, but silence is not a great strategy either, since that could rhetorically signal there is a there there,” McCall said. “In this era when harassment allegations continue to pop up, all media organizations should be prepared to respond quickly with at least a statement of concern and promise to fully investigate.”
Industry insiders said that ABC’s silence is troubling and the network would benefit from getting out in front of the allegations. Mediaite columnist Joseph Wulfsohn said the silence can’t last forever.
“While they may be able to get away with it for now, they'll certainly be forced to break their silence if his accuser continues to publicly speak out or more accusers come forward,” Wulfsohn told Fox News.
Seacrest, 43, will reportedly make “somewhere north of $10 million” for “Idol” alone and is believed to make another $10 million or more for “Live.”
“It would also be wise for networks to more fully screen their talent before contracting them for big sums of money. Big media outlets can avoid these embarrassing situations by cleaning up their workplace cultures, but I am not sure they have the will or ability to do it,” McCall said.
As previously reported, Hardy took her complaints directly to E!, which didn’t move forward with any punishment against Seacrest after a third-party investigator deemed there wasn't enough evidence.
While people close to Seacrest think the E! investigation exonerated the ABC star, the allegations could still turn into a significant problem for the network. ABC has made a huge financial gamble on the revamped version of “American Idol,” including a controversial $25 million salary for Katy Perry to serve as a judge of the competition.
The allegations against Seacrest come at the height of the #MeToo movement that has swept the nation since Harvey Weinstein was outed as a sexual predator last year. Seacrest’s lawyer, Andrew Baum, told Fox News that Hardy initially asked for a payout to keep quiet, prompting Seacrest to announce the investigation publicly on his own behalf.
“It is upsetting to us that Variety is electing to run a ‘story’ about untrue allegations that we were made against my client, after they were told that the accuser threatened to make those false claims against him unless he paid her $15 million. At that time, the claimant threatened to issue a demonstrably false press statement unless she was paid," the statement reads. "Instead, my client proactively and publicly denied the claims and agreed to fully cooperate with E!’s investigation about the matter."
Hardy’s lawyers, on the other hand, have said there's absolutely no evidence to support claims she demanded hush money.
The detailed allegations against Seacrest are the latest problem for ABC, though most of its problems have come from its troubled news division. ABC News faced recent criticism because “The View” host Joy Behar mocked Vice President Mike Pence’s Christian faith. The controversy has resulted in a variety of industry watchdogs suggesting it would be wise for ABC News to divorce itself from the show that typically features four outspoken liberals and a single conservative.
ABC has also dealt with claims that former ABC News star Mark Halperin was a serial sexual harasser while at the network. Halperin’s career fell apart last October when multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct when he was political director at ABC in the 2000s. He had since moved on to MSNBC but the cable news network cut ties with him when the allegations surfaced.