Online Fox Nation host Britt McHenry sued Fox News, saying that her co-host Tyrus sexually harassed her and that the network did nothing to respond to her complaints. Hers is the latest in a string of sexual harassment claims against the company, showing that the company’s new “zero tolerance” policy isn’t playing out in the workplace.
Britt McHenry co-hosts Fox News’s online streaming program “Un-PC” with George Murdoch, a former professional wrestler with the stage name Tyrus. But their working relationship seems to be on the ropes. According to a recent lawsuit McHenry filed in the United States District Court in Manhattan, Tyrus repeatedly sent her inappropriate and sexual text messages, some of which were threatening. When she and her agent reported the incidents to Fox News, the company investigated, and then did nothing. It even went so far as to offer Murdoch his own streaming show, “Nuff Said.”
According to the lawsuit, on October 31, 2018, Murdoch sent her text messages saying:
“I love ponytails and braids you look amazing and it’s a real turn on not that you care but I love it”
Two days later, he sent another:
“Is it creepy how I look at you ??? . . . FYI you’ll need those legs to escape from me in Montana.”
Later, he told her that a picture of her “looks so good I would knock the picture up” saying “Crazy sexy love your legs.”
McHenry reported the texts to Fox News, and to the New York State Division of Human Rights. But the sexual harassment issues continued even as the company investigated the allegations. According to the lawsuit, the Fox News investigator told her she was “really pretty” and “leading him on.”
This is hardly the first time Fox News has had to respond to public allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. In June 2016, reporter Gretchen Carlson and host Andrea Tantaros filed suit based on sexual harassment and misconduct by company chairman Roger Ailes. Over the next year, women employees of the news company raised their own claims of sexual harassment and retaliation. Many pointed toward misconduct by news personalities Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity.
After paying over $100 million in settlements and verdicts, Fox News publicly stated it has a “zero tolerance” policy toward sexual harassment. Yet when McHenry filed a lawsuit with her allegations the network said:
“The lawsuit recycles the same allegations [as the earlier administrative complaint]. . . . As we have previously stated, Ms. McHenry’s allegations have been fully investigated and we are confident our actions will be deemed entirely appropriate in litigation. We expect all of her claims to be dismissed.”
McHenry alleges that she has also been shut out of advancement opportunities at the company, including spots on broadcast shows with higher viewership. At the same time, her harasser has been given his own show. Her complaint says:
“In practice, Fox News remains a sanctuary for sexual harassers, coddling and enabling men who abuse female employees.”
In response to the company’s statement that she is repeating claims, McHenry wrote on Twitter:
“I have maintained the same allegations because the truth doesn’t change. I feel for any sexual harassment victim who has their story and evidence dismissed, doubted and not believed.”
Ms. McHenry’s situation, and Fox News’s response to the complaint, highlight one thing about how sexual harassment claims are handled: the repetition. Ms. McHenry made complaints internally. Her agent advocated for her. Then she filed a claim with the New York State Division of Human Rights before finally filing a lawsuit in federal court. If Fox News is complaining that these are the same allegations, they’re right.
That’s because the process for raising Title VII sexual harassment claims involves a number of steps. Until you have exhausted your administrative remedies and received a Notice of Right to Sue, you can’t take the matter to court. For some, this delay and repetition causes inconsistencies or changes in their story and reduces their credibility. The fact that Ms. McHenry’s allegations have remained constant suggests that what she says really did happen.
Ms. McHenry’s suit is in its early stages, and Fox News still has time to settle her claims. But if it continues to insist that it did nothing wrong, she has asked that a jury hear her story and decide if the news agency has really taken appropriate steps to change its way.
At Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, our sexual harassment attorneys have the patience and endurance to see your case through all the stages of a civil rights complaint: from the first letter to your employer to the last arguments of a jury trial. If you have been the victim of sexual harassment at work, we will review your case and help you tell your story in a way that protects you and gets you the compensation and relief you need, so you can get on with your work. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.