Updated March 1, 2018, 9:45 a.m. PT: Despite a mountain of evidence against him being made public, Ryan Seacrest has faced little backlash and still has supporters. On the March 1 episode of Live with Kelly and Ryan, his cohost, Kelly Ripa, made a very pointed public statement of support for Seacrest.
"I just want you to know you are a privilege to work with, and I adore you," Ripa said to cheers from the live studio audience. "Speaking on behalf of all of us here, I know what an easy, professional, great person you are, and I feel very, very lucky to work with you each and every day."
Seacrest's girlfriend has also spoken out in support of him. And Seacrest, unfortunately, isn't the first famous person to dodge the kinds of accusations that brought down the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Brett Ratner. It just goes to show we still have a way to go before Hollywood really is a safe place for women.
Seacrest will also be on the Oscars red carpet for E!, which is already causing some controversy. Jennifer Lawrence told Howard Stern she's on the fence about whether she would speak to Seacrest there, both because of the allegations against Seacrest personally and because Catt Sadler left E! after the network refused to pay her as much as her male counterpart.
"I have noticed that they keep cycling these women and I am going… is that so you don’t have to pay another woman equally to Jason [Kennedy]? Is this just a way to still maintain that you are not paying women equally?" Lawrence wondered.
When Stern asked her if her hesitation had to do with Seacrest as well, she answered, "I don’t know about the Ryan Seacrest thing. I think it is scary, you know. He has not been to trial for anything. I am not a judge. I am not a jury, you know. I don’t know… that is where this stuff gets tricky."
While Seacrest hasn't been tried, men who sexually abuse women almost never are, just as Weinstein, Spacey and Ratner have not been tried. While ideally, the justice system should handle these kinds of cases, the reality is that it doesn't, and we all need to take a stand to make it clear to these men, Seacrest included, that their behavior isn't OK.
Updated Feb. 27, 2018, 9:40 a.m. PT: The woman who made sexual misconduct allegations against Ryan Seacrest has come forward to tell her story, and frankly, it does not look good for either Seacrest or E! When the 10-year-old allegations were made against Seacrest, E! commissioned an outside investigation and ultimately found "insufficient evidence" to support the allegations. But now, Seacrest's former stylist Suzie Hardy is telling all of her story, and in a bombshell Variety report, her allegations are corroborated by multiple friends, colleagues and coworkers from her time at E! There are a lot of voices backing her up for E! to have found "insufficient evidence," and considering the network's recent track record for its treatment of female employees, it's hard to be surprised.
In a letter sent from her attorney to E!, Hardy details years of abuse. Variety obtained a copy of that letter and substantiated many of Hardy's claims through outside sources. Hardy said that in 2007, as a single mom, she was approached by Seacrest's personal assistant, her neighbor at the time, about working for the up-and-coming star. She jumped at the chance. But it wasn't long before Seacrest's assistant started dropping hints that Seacrest was interested in Hardy romantically, she said. Soon after that, she alleges, he started asking her to come to sets where he had another stylist or come to his home alone at late hours. Hardy says she refused many of these requests, and Seacrest became more aggressive. She says she turned down a request from him to "take a nap" with him while prepping for the 2007 New Year’s Rockin' Eve special (meant to ring in the year 2008).
Hardy says Seacrest's behavior continued to escalate, and he started giving her "bear hugs" while wearing only his underwear in his dressing room. He also gave her expensive gifts and at one point, she said, tearfully told her, "I just don’t think you’re attracted to me." Hardy says she replied, "I'm attracted to my paycheck."
"I didn’t know how to deal with it," Hardy told Variety. "I really didn’t. I was battling finally being in a decent financial position to breathe and be a mom, that I didn’t have to be freaking out all the time, and then dealing with this infantile celebrity person who was testing me on every level and manipulating me and knew that I was in a vulnerable position."
Hardy says Seacrest's inappropriate behavior continued into 2008, when Seacrest allegedly slipped his hand under her crotch, and then asked her, "Oh my god, are you going to sue me?" Hardy says she assured him she wouldn't as long as she kept her job. Variety spoke to a former E! employee who says Hardy told him about that incident when it happened. The former coworker also described times that Seacrest hugged Hardy against her will or tried to force her head into his crotch when she tied his shoes. That coworker also witnessed an event a year later when Seacrest allegedly slapped Hardy's buttock hard enough to leave a welt. Hardy photographed the welt and provided the photo to investigators. Metadata from the photo confirmed it was taken at the time Hardy and her former coworker claimed the slap happened. That coworker was also interviewed during E!'s investigation, which supposedly found "insufficient evidence" of Seacrest's alleged misconduct.
That same coworker also told investigators he witnessed Seacrest, again wearing only his underwear, grab Hardy and rub his erection against her, only stopping when the coworker yelled at him.
The following year, 2010, Hardy alleges she was in a new relationship, and Seacrest harassed her about it. "Have you fucked him yet?" she recalls Seacrest asking about her new boyfriend. Hardy says she told Seacrest not to ask her things like that, and he responded by "tightly" grabbing her vagina. Two coworkers and a friend not associated with E! told Variety they remember Hardy telling them about this incident in 2010. A coworker who witnessed it told Variety she offered to escort Hardy to HR to report it, but still in fear of losing her job, Hardy declined.
Hardy says that in 2013, HR approached her (not the other way around), asking about her relationship with Seacrest. Hardy says she denied having a physical relationship with him, but broke down and detailed the years of abuse and harassment she had suffered. She says she was fired soon after.
In the letter sent from her attorney to E!, Hardy is only asking the network to "come up with a plan to address the treatment of all women at the networks and to take responsibility for the wrongful treatment" Hardy endured. Hardy said when E! announced its investigation had cleared Seacrest of wrongdoing, she felt "total exasperation."
"I felt like by the third interview, it was obvious the investigator was whitewashing it for Seacrest’s side," she added.
A spokesperson for E! defended the investigation, telling Variety, "E!’s investigation was extremely comprehensive and thorough. Over the course of a two-month process, our outside counsel interviewed more than two dozen people regarding the allegations, including multiple separate meetings with the claimant. The investigator is an attorney with nearly 20 years experience and is highly regarded professionally. Any claims that question the legitimacy of this investigation are completely baseless."
Seacrest's attorney criticized Hardy for coming forward and Variety for giving her a platform.
"It is upsetting to us that Variety is electing to run a ‘story’ about untrue allegations that 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. Instead, my client proactively and publicly denied the claims and agreed to fully cooperate with E!’s investigation about the matter," he said. It's important to note that Hardy and her attorney both deny ever asking for money, and Seacrest's attorney did not provide any evidence that she had done so.
Meanwhile, Seacrest remains one of the most formidable faces in entertainment. He hosts a radio show, shares the stage with Kelly Ripa on Live with Kelly and Ryan and is about to reprise his first major role as host of the American Idol revival, set to premiere next month on ABC. Seacrest is a force right now, and it will be a real test of Hollywood's reckoning in the time of the #MeToo movement to see whether his legacy can be toppled like those of other powerful men who have done despicable things.
Original story, published Feb. 6, 2018, 9:53 a.m. PT: Ryan Seacrest, never one to sit back and stay quiet, is speaking out about the sexual harassment allegations that were levied against him late last year. Last week, he was cleared by an external investigation, which stated that there was "insufficient evidence to substantiate allegations against Seacrest."
In an open letter, Seacrest talked about how it felt to hear about the allegations.
"In November, I received a letter from a lawyer representing a former show stylist. She claimed that I mistreated her more than a decade ago when we worked together. This arrived during an unprecedented public reckoning by women in our industry and beyond, courageously coming forward to share their stories, many of them heartbreaking. These women sought to bring attention to the systemic gender inequality that has occurred for decades. I was — and am — amazed at their bravery," he wrote.
"To have my workplace conduct questioned was gut-wrenching. I’ve always aimed to treat all of my colleagues with honesty, respect, kindness and compassion. Yet, I knew, regardless of the confidence I had that there was no merit to the allegations, my name would likely soon appear on the lists of those suspected of despicable words and deeds. The pressures of our overflowing newsfeeds would insist on it. I absolutely want to be part of the change, the progress, that is coming. I did not want to be a postscript of evidence of its cause."
He went on to explain how important he thinks it is that we presume innocence for those accused, writing, "At a time when improper interactions between men and women, particularly in the workplace, are part of a national conversation, we must find a way to ensure that everyone — the public, private and public institutions, accusers and alleged accused — is given the opportunity for a swift and fair review."
He then went on to say this: "My job is to listen. Beyond listening, which I will continue in earnest, I also will ask questions and try to help voices be heard. It isn’t lost on me that my platforms — radio, TV, social media — can be powerful conduits for change."
But that's wrong. Seacrest's job is not simply to listen. In fact, listening to women when they tell the harrowing stories of the abuse, marginalization and dismissal they have faced is not a brave or important act — it's the baseline for being a decent human being. As a man with power and privilege most women can only dream of, Seacrest has a much harder job. He needs to use his power to take actual action to change the culture of harassment and abuse in the entertainment industry. He doesn't seem to realize this.
Another thing Seacrest doesn't seem to realize is that women very rarely make false accusations about men who mistreat them. We often have more to lose than to gain by speaking up. Women are historically blamed and vilified for accusing men of bad behavior. And when there's no evidence to support their claims, as there generally isn't when it's one woman's word against one man's, our credibility is destroyed, regardless of whether there was truth to the allegations.
Just because an investigation did not find evidence to support this claim against Seacrest doesn't mean he's off the hook. Men simply don't think about their words the same way women do. They think nothing of the jokes and offhand comments they make that can make women deeply uncomfortable because women are conditioned to see the possibility of danger in every interaction with men. Instead of speaking up about how difficult it has been to have his character questioned, now is the time for Seacrest to examine his and other men's behavior and actually commit to making changes.
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