Jennifer Eckhart, the woman who accused Ed Henry of raping her, summed up her career at Fox by saying, “I was paralyzed by fear when I was working there.”
I’ve written about the lawsuit both for NewsHounds and for Crooks and Liars. But, as far as I know, this is the first interview in which Eckhart and her co-plaintiff, Cathy Areu, have spoken in person about their experiences at Fox.
Eckhart has the most disturbing account. As I’ve previously written, she alleged in the suit that Henry raped her while she was helpless and restrained in metal handcuffs and that he “preformed sadistic acts on her without her consent that left her injured, bruised and battered with bloody wrists.” She also claims he took photos of her as she pleaded with him to stop, to be used as potential blackmail.
Speaking with CBS’ Jericka Duncan, Eckhart was obviously in great emotional pain. “As a 24 year-old girl, when the chief White House correspondent follows you on Twitter, you – you know, you get stars in your eyes,” she said about her early encounters with Henry.
Those stars faded. When asked if she’d characterize her relationship with Henry as “mainly abusive,” Eckhart replied, “Absolutely, without question. I felt that he had the power to derail me, to destroy me, to ruin my career and I didn’t have a voice until now.”
“Was there ever a time at Fox that you felt safe?” Duncan asked.
“I think it’s safe to say that I was paralyzed by fear when I was working there,” Eckhart said.
The segment included a response from the attorney for the recently-fired Henry, saying that Eckhart “initiated and completely encouraged a consensual relationship.”
Even if that’s so, Henry comes out of this looking like a dirtbag at best. For one thing, this is not the first time the married Henry has been involved in a sordid affair. You may recall that he took a “time out” from Fox after salacious details about his extramarital affair with a Las Vegas “hostess” became public, in 2016.
For another, the lawsuit includes images of texts Henry allegedly sent Eckhart. A sample: Will let you know if/when avail so you can get slapped around some more;” “Gona make you my little whore again;” and one string that read, “Good long session last time” “Left you bruised batter dazed sated begging for more” “Perfect.”
What’s more, Areu alleges she has messages from Henry, too. One is allegedly a photograph of a woman’s vagina being “clamped” closed by four clothespins; another is a photograph of a woman’s rear end and vagina modified to include the features of a bunny rabbit (sent for Easter).
Areu also accused Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Howard Kurtz of sexual harassment and retaliation in the suit.
“I kind of got numb to it,” Areu said about her treatment at Fox. “I thought it was perfectly fine to receive pornographic images and gifts. I thought that was normal for a male anchor to do.” Now, though, “I don’t want anyone else to feel that way,” she said.
Areu also indicated that she had not expected the culture of misogyny and abuse to change at Fox after Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit that eventually brought down Roger Ailes, “Some of the men complained that there were so many meetings that they had to go to on how to speak to women and how not to sexually harass,” Areu said.
Fox says it conducted an independent investigation and concluded Areu’s allegations are “baseless.” The network also said, “We take all claims of harassment, misconduct and retaliation seriously.”
But NPR’s David Folkenflik has reported that Fox was warned about Henry’s behavior as early as 2017 (which, according to CBS, Fox denies). This is what Folkenflik reported on July 1, the day Henry was fired:
Several former colleagues tell NPR that over the years, Henry proved aggressively flirtatious with younger, female Fox staffers. He sometimes sent graphic notes and even graphic images to them, according to these colleagues.
In 2017, a written complaint was filed to senior Fox executives warning against giving Henry greater profile on the air, including as a substitute host and anchor, according to a former colleague with knowledge of those events.
The complaint said the prospect of Henry's greater prominence on Fox was crushing for female colleagues after the network had promised sweeping changes following Ailes' ouster. Among those with whom the complaint was shared: Jay Wallace, Fox's chief news executive, and Kevin Lord, the chief human relations executive who was brought in with the mandate to help transform the culture.
You can watch Eckhart and Areu below, from the July 21, 2020 CBS This Morning.
(H/T reader Eric J.)