Fired Fox News host Ed Henry filed a defamation lawsuit against the network and its CEO, Suzanne Scott, alleging that he was publicly painted as a “sex criminal” in an attempt to save Scott’s reputation.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in New Jersey and comes almost a year after Henry was accused in a complaint of “violently” raping former Fox Business producer Jennifer Eckhart and sending “wildly inappropriate sexual images” to another woman.
The suit says that Henry and Eckhart engaged in a consensual relationship that ended in 2017. It does not specifically address the claims made by the second woman.
Henry was fired by Fox News in July, shortly before the women’s allegations became public. In a statement, the network said it had become aware of sexual misconduct allegations involving Henry and had terminated him “based on the investigative findings.”
In his suit, Henry accuses Scott and the network of turning against him and abruptly firing him while “publicly humiliating him in the process.” It says that when the network released its statement announcing the termination, Scott insinuated that Henry was guilty of sexual misconduct.
“Regrettably, Ms. Scott sandbagged Plaintiff with her statement, lending credence to the false allegations because she was trying to save her own career and burnish her image as a tough, no nonsense female executive who cleaned up Fox News,” the suit says.
“In reality, however, Ms. Scott had long been an instrument to cover up the existence of sexual misconduct at Fox News,” it continues, accusing Scott of trying to hide an alleged affair between a subordinate and the network’s president, Jay Wallace.
“Thus, Ms. Scott used Plaintiff as a scapegoat to divert attention away from her own sordid history at Fox News.”
The suit further claims that Scott “had no reason” to believe Eckhart’s accusations because Henry had voluntarily provided text messages, emails and photographs that disputed her claims. It also says that the network had said in court filings that Eckhart never reported any type of misconduct when asked during her exit interview last June.
In addition, the suit says that Fox News banned Henry from asking certain questions in interviews and he was told not to bring up NFL players kneeling during the national anthem during an interview with a coach. The suit claims that Scott wanted to downplay those stories to benefit her career.
An attorney for Eckhart said Thursday that his client stands by her claims and has nothing more to say.
A Fox News spokesperson released a statement dismissing Henry’s lawsuit as “a desperate attempt for relevance and redemption.”
“We are fully prepared to vigorously defend against these baseless allegations as Mr. Henry further embarrasses himself in a lawsuit rife with inaccuracies after driving his personal life into the ground …” the statement said.
“Under the leadership of CEO Suzanne Scott, FOX News Media has worked tirelessly to transform the company culture,” the statement added, citing “the many cultural changes that Ms. Scott has instituted during her incredibly successful tenure as CEO.”
In response to the allegations Henry made against Wallace, the statement said, “FOX conducted a full and independent investigation of the claims against Jay Wallace — he was cleared of any wrongdoing and the allegations are false.”
Henry’s attorney, Ty Clevenger, dismissed Fox News’ statement and said the network is making “defamatory” comments about his client.
“I’ve never seen such a reckless and vicious press release from a major corporation, and it tells me they’re very worried about this lawsuit. Discovery and depositions will be extraordinarily embarrassing for Fox News and its leadership,” he said Thursday.
He also dismissed the network’s response about Scott as a “canned statement” about the network’s workplace culture, and said that Wallace “can say whatever he wants in a press release. Let’s wait and see what he says when he’s under oath.”