A Fox News personality who accused her former co-host of sexually harassing her says she’s been sidelined after suing him and the network, all while he continues to be promoted and protected.
On December 18, a U.S. district judge denied Fox News contributor Tyrus’ request to dismiss his former Fox Nation co-host Britt McHenry‘s lawsuit alleging he repeatedly harassed her via lewd, inappropriate text messages. Since then, the former professional wrestler has appeared on Fox’s airwaves at least ten times, including during the network’s New Year’s Eve special and three times as a co-host of the highly rated late-afternoon talk show The Five.
McHenry, on the other hand, has not appeared on Fox at all in months, though she remains a paid contributor. “All I want to do is work,” she told The Daily Beast. “But when you flip on the TV and see your harasser once again given on-air promotions, it sends a clear message that solving this appropriately on Fox News’ end isn’t in the cards.”
Despite the unfolding legal saga—which includes allegations of Tyrus doctoring text messages and engaging in retaliation with help from his close friend, Fox News host Greg Gutfeld—the network believes the wrestler-turned-pundit has been “exonerated.” Two “independent outside investigators” found “mutual and consensual conduct,” Fox News claimed, and thus Tyrus’ actions do not necessitate a suspension or firing.
And the network maintained that it has not benched McHenry, noting how the company recently renewed her contract for two more years and that she is free to pitch herself to appear on Fox News or Fox Business Network shows like any other contributor.
But McHenry disagreed. “A federal court judge moved all my claims against my abuser forward, and yet it appears as though Fox News simply doesn’t care,” she said. “Honestly, it feels intentional and cruel.”
Fox News originally paired the outspoken McHenry—a former ESPN correspondent who was once suspended after video emerged of her berating a towing-lot employee, and was later laid off by the sports network—with Tyrus in late 2018 to co-host Un-PC, the flagship opinion program for the network’s over-the-top streaming service Fox Nation. But by spring 2019, Tyrus disappeared from the show and, a week later, The Daily Beast reported that the hosting duo were split up as McHenry accused him of sexual harassment.
The former pro-wrestler—whose legal name is George Murdoch—sent her multiple unsolicited text messages containing lewd, sexual comments, McHenry alleged. Subsequent reporting showed that Tyrus at one point texted McHenry to “just pull your boobs out” and, in other texts, threatened to send her “another dick pic” (an “inside joke,” Tyrus claimed in court documents).
At the time, Fox News was dismissive of the claims, writing in a statement, “The process works because of the extensive systems and measures we have instituted. This situation was independently investigated and we consider the matter resolved.”
But months later, McHenry filed a lawsuit against Fox News and Tyrus, executive producer Jennifer Rauchet and Fox Nation boss John Finley, among others, publicly laying out the sexual-harassment claims and alleging that Fox and Tyrus retaliated against her in response.
“Ms. McHenry’s allegations have been fully investigated and we are confident our actions will be deemed entirely appropriate in litigation,” Fox once again said at the time. “We expect all of her claims to be dismissed.”
In the lawsuit, McHenry claimed that in January 2019, she told Rauchet, her then-supervisor, that Tyrus had sent the inappropriate messages, and that the Fox Nation producer never investigated the claims or reported them to human resources. And even after the alleged harassment continued, and she complained to her boss a third time, McHenry claimed Rauchet told her she was “replaceable” and that Fox “never wanted” her in the first place. (In this week’s filing, Tyrus’ attorneys pushed back against that claim, noting the network’s third-party investigation concluded McHenry didn’t complain about harassment to Rauchet in January 2019. The investigation also said McHenry didn’t complain about sexual harassment until April 2019.)
“It’s demoralizing. Absolutely gut-wrenching to see that a company, in this day and age, would completely ignore a woman’s credible claims of sexual harassment and retaliation,” McHenry told The Daily Beast this month. “Not only ignore them but seem to blatantly and vindictively flaunt their disregard.”
Meanwhile, Tyrus’ star has only risen at Fox News since being accused of misconduct. The ex-wrestler was given his own solo Fox Nation program, titled Nuff Said, and continues to host a weekly Fox News Radio podcast with fellow contributor Kat Timpf. Additionally, he has made regular appearances across Fox News, including the guest-hosting stints on The Five.
And McHenry, whose on-air hits had already dwindled in number prior to the coronavirus pandemic, has all but disappeared from the network.
“This is Fox’s pattern in case after case: punish the victim, reward the accused, even when the sexual harassment is in writing, even when a federal judge throws out his legal defenses,” McHenry’s attorney Lisa Bloom said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Hosting on Fox News is the brass ring for talent. The opportunity is given to Tyrus but not to Britt. It’s shameful and retaliatory.”
“This is Lisa Bloom’s pattern in case after case: use friendly outlets to push a slanted version of a client’s sexual harassment case, then use as a selling point to future clients her ability to unfairly smear an opponent,” a Fox News spokesperson fired back. “It does not matter whether the client is Harvey Weinstein or someone else, her playbook is the same.”
And Fox News insists McHenry “has been treated equally to other contributors,” further claiming to The Daily Beast that the onus is on her to “pitch and seek appearances” on-air. “Contractual contributors like Ms. McHenry are responsible to pitch stories and to approach shows with their availability, which is the usual way contributors get assignments and appearances,” according to the network. “Successful contributors take the initiative to seek bookings.”
Beyond the confidence of company brass, who believe Tyrus to have been fully exonerated amid pending litigation, McHenry suggested the continued promotion of her alleged harasser comes largely thanks to his powerful friends: Fox News hosts Greg Gutfeld and Dana Perino.
Nearly all of the ex-wrestler’s Fox News on-air commentary appears on Gutfeld’s eponymous weekend show, Perino’s daytime news broadcast (which was recently canceled as part of Fox’s lineup revamp), and The Five, where both Gutfeld and Perino star as co-hosts.
Gutfeld, in particular, has been fiery in his support of his close personal friend Tyrus. In fact, McHenry alleged in her lawsuit, Gutfeld retaliated against her by using social media to openly mock the allegations against Tyrus, whom he refers to on-air as his “massive sidekick.” For example, she claimed, when one of the founders of right-wing digital outlet The Federalist (where McHenry is an occasional writer) publicly expressed his support for her, Gutfeld privately messaged him to berate and insult him.
In one of those Twitter direct messages, sent in July 2019 and obtained by The Daily Beast, Gutfeld ranted, “nice virtue signal shitting on Tyrus. Have you read the FNC response? Do you know the amount of investigation they put into this? Are you aware that only one person is talking? Or were you just trying to score points, which ends up hurting Kat [Timpf], myself, and Dana. nice work champ. You of all people should know how the media distorts stories, but hey – you gotta good tweet out of it.”
The Fox News star added, “What a bullshit artist you are.”
Gutfeld’s actions are unsurprising to some current and former Fox employees, especially given his past work in promoting controversial on-air figures like Gavin McInnes, a proudly bigoted far-right commentator who later founded the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group that took part in the deadly Capitol riots.
Gutfeld “used to promote Gavin McInnes even when others didn’t want him to,” one former Fox colleague tells The Daily Beast. “He thought Gavin was edgy and cool.” Similarly, the source suggested, Gutfeld aggressively boosts Tyrus in part because of the Fox host’s staunchly anti-“cancel culture” posturing.
“Greg Gutfeld has been an ardent supporter of women throughout his tenure with the network, including helping to grow the careers of several colleagues, including his Greg Gutfeld Show regular Kat Timpf,” the network said.
But it is Perino’s seemingly unwavering support for Tyrus that has left some Fox insiders puzzled.
“It’s funny. Dana tries to act like a champion for women but had Tyrus on her show while this stuff was going on,” one current Fox News staffer told The Daily Beast. “I’m not quite sure what the thinking is, and it’s extra sad to me personally to see respected women like Dana supporting him by putting him on her show. It shows me that they pick and choose what women to believe even though the evidence is credible. It’s super confusing to me.”
The network defended Perino in a statement of support: “Dana Perino has always been an advocate and voice for women. From her Minute Mentoring program, which provides young professionals access to prominent female leaders, to her new book Everything Will Be Okay: Life Lessons for Young Women (from a Former Young Woman), her mission has repeatedly been to support and elevate women across the board. Any characterization otherwise is completely false.”
But the current staffer concluded, “The fact there’s blatant evidence, and he’s getting more airtime than ever, being propped up by respectable hosts like Dana Perino, shows women that the harassment culture has not changed.”
That “blatant evidence” may refer to the bevy of sexually charged texts Tyrus allegedly sent to McHenry (including “Dick pic coming in 5 sec!!!!”), but also to a central, dramatic element of her claims: That Tyrus “doctored” messages to give the appearance of consensual activity.
According to the lawsuit, in 2019, Fox News presented McHenry with text messages “purported to be from Ms. McHenry to [Tyrus] with her cleavage and nearly bare breast shown,” suggesting these were “critical” to investigators’ conclusion of no wrongdoing by Tyrus.
However, McHenry alleged, those pictures were “fraudulent.” The Fox personality claimed that Tyrus “doctored” their text exchange to suggest McHenry had sent him a photo of her cleavage. The Daily Beast obtained and reviewed the photo that he claimed McHenry had sent him, which in the text exchange was cropped to only show a woman’s torso. A simple Google Images search clearly shows that this image came from a model’s social-media profile and is not of McHenry.
Tyrus denied the texts were altered. But confident in her claim that he had doctored the messages, McHenry “offered to have her cell phone examined by a forensic expert to prove that she had not sent these photos, provided [Tyrus] do the same.” He did not submit his phone for examination, per the complaint, nor did Fox’s internal investigation address her claim.
Further complicating matters, McHenry claimed she lost her phone prior to filing the lawsuit. All of her text messages were backed up to cloud storage and thus available for review, she said, but nevertheless, Tyrus and his attorneys seized upon the lost phone to refuse to submit his device for examination.
“McHenry’s counsel recently informed us, more than a year after McHenry filed her complaint in federal court, that McHenry somehow ‘lost’ the phone containing her communications with Tyrus,” the ex-wrestler’s attorney Tom Clare said in a statement. “Tyrus is more than happy to cooperate in a mutual examination of phones, but only after we fully understand the facts and circumstances surrounding McHenry’s ‘lost’ phone. That seems only fair, especially since she is the one seeking millions of dollars based on the contents of her ‘lost phone.’”
But McHenry’s attorney Lisa Bloom insisted the lost phone is a non-issue, telling The Daily Beast, “As anyone with basic internet knowledge knows, texts are stored in the cloud. They are not dependent on one particular device. It’s not 1995. Britt has saved them all. We produced all the texts to the so-called ‘investigator’… we then produced all the texts a second time, to the defense attorneys. Nothing was withheld. In contrast to our full transparency, the defense has refused to turn over documents and communications we’ve requested.”
She continued: “Similarly, Fox News has not been interested in getting to the truth. Once we learned fake photos of Britt had been given to the ‘investigator,’ we sent links to the ‘investigator’ to the website they’d been pulled from, and offered that Britt would turn over her devices for a forensic examination if Mr. Murdoch would. Our offer was rejected.”
And in new court documents, filed earlier this week, Tyrus’ counsel doubled down: “[McHenry] lost her phone before she filed this lawsuit and before she submitted what she claimed to be an accurate representation of 5,156 text messages she exchanged with Tyrus (‘text log’) that she had provided to her attorneys from her phone to an independent investigator. In light of Plaintiff’s late disclosure that she lost the phone, Fox Defendants have not authenticated or verified the accuracy or completeness of the text log provided by Plaintiff and now may not be able to do so. Indeed, the Fox Defendants may not be able to verify whether messages were deleted from Plaintiff’s phone prior to the creation of the text log or whether text messages were altered before being placed on the text log.”
“Fox News is investigating the timing and the circumstances surrounding the loss of Ms. McHenry’s phone, and whether any evidence that could undermine McHenry’s claims still exists,” the network said.
While Tyrus continues to enjoy regular on-air promotion even as a messy sexual-harassment case publicly plays out in court, other Fox News personalities were not so lucky, multiple network insiders pointed out. In fact, the sources observed, Fox is usually quick to bench or fire personalities amid misconduct accusations.
Judge Andrew Napolitano, for example, hasn’t appeared on Fox programming since late September after he was hit with a lawsuit accusing him of forcing a man to engage in a “bizarre sex act” involving father-son roleplay. Weeks earlier, he’d also been sued for allegedly “forcibly sodomiz[ing] and sexually assault[ing]” a young man in the ’80s.
The ex-judge denied both allegations and the network initially issued statements affirming their support for him. But while he has continued to write a weekly online column for the network, Napolitano—once among the network’s top judicial and legal analysts—has not shown up on-air in more than three months. Fox News declined to comment on his absence.
Additionally, Fox Business Network anchor Charles Payne was swiftly suspended in July 2017 as the network investigated allegations from right-wing pundit Scottie Nell Hughes that Payne raped her in 2013 and then coerced her into an extramarital affair in exchange for more frequent appearances on his show. He was eventually reinstated in September, and after an internal investigation was completed, Hughes sued the network—which Fox called a “publicity stunt”—and the two sides reached a settlement a year later.
Long-time Fox host Eric Bolling was similarly suspended in Aug. 2017 after HuffPost reported that at least three of his female colleagues accused him of sending lewd and unsolicited photos of male genitalia to them on separate occasions. A month later, Fox News parted ways with Bolling, ending his ten-year run at the network. At the time, Bolling, who now hosts for Sinclair Broadcasting, said that he “recalls no such inappropriate communications [and] does not believe he sent any such communications.”
But one current Fox News staffer said the network’s continued protection of Tyrus stands most in contrast with the case of James Rosen. After 18 years at the network, Rosen unceremoniously exited in 2017, with Fox citing no reason or making no mention of it on-air. His former colleagues later revealed to NPR that he had an “established pattern of flirting aggressively with many peers” and that he “had made sexual advances toward three female Fox News journalists, including two reporters and a producer.”
“They fired James right away,” the Fox Newser said. “I really don’t understand what the difference is. James was more of an asset to Fox in a sense that he was a reporter, smart, had sources. But Tyrus doesn’t bring much to the table as is.”
And some Fox News insiders claimed the Tyrus-McHenry ordeal illustrates that Fox’s corporate culture, particularly in its treatment of women, is still grossly flawed.
“The handling of this particular lawsuit demonstrates that Fox has not moved an inch since the Ailes days, because they’re still in the Ailes days, because Suzanne Scott is in charge,” one recently departed Fox employee told The Daily Beast, referencing the current CEO’s purported role in enabling the late Fox founder Roger Ailes’ alleged serial misconduct. “If you’re a woman making an accusation against a male with influence, get comfortable watching nothing change as the accused gets more spotlight and the company doubles down behind him.”
“Historically,” the ex-staffer added, “Fox likes to stick by its male talent as women accusers suffer in silence on the sidelines.”
In response, a Fox News spokesperson said, “85% of Fox News employees responded affirmatively to the statement in their Great Places to Work survey that ‘the company has taken meaningful action to address sexual harassment’ and 83% of Fox News employees responded affirmatively to the question, ‘If I raise a concern regarding sexual harassment, I believe it will be investigated.’ Former employees are clearly ignorant to all of the changes that have been enacted over the last 4 years, including a new HR operation and quarterly addresses/town halls led by Suzanne to increase transparency and communication.”
Diana Falzone was an on-camera and digital reporter for FoxNews.com from 2012 to 2018. In May 2017, she filed a gender discrimination and disability lawsuit against the network and settled, and left the company in March 2018.
Source by www.thedailybeast.com