Bloomberg Law
Oct. 20, 2020, 9:37 PMUpdated: Oct. 21, 2020, 1:18 AM

Fox News, Ed Henry Say Sex Trafficking Claims Lack Merit (1)

Peter Hayes
Peter Hayes

Fox News Network LLC and its former anchor Ed Henry asked the Southern District of New York to dismiss sex-trafficking claims stemming from Henry’s alleged rape of another Fox employee in a hotel room.

Jennifer Eckhart wasn’t raped or coerced into commercial sex acts and her complaint fails to allege Henry promised her anything of value in exchange for sex, Henry told the court.

“At most, the allegations would support the conclusion that Eckhart agreed to have a sexual relationship with Mr. Henry with the vague hope that doing so could aid her career,” the dismissal motion said.

The claim against Fox also fails because there is no assertion that the network knew about the alleged crime, or derived any benefit from it, the network said in a separate brief filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The court should reject Eckhart’s argument that Fox benefited by allowing, “Henry to continue to appear on Fox News and co-anchor shows, which resulted in Fox News continuing to make money,” the network said.

Fox simply employed Henry and benefited from his services as a reporter and television co-anchor, it said.

The network informed Eckhart that it was terminating her employment on June 12, 2020, and she reported her allegations against Henry June 25, the network said. Fox suspended Henry that day and announced July 1 that he had been fired.

Eckhart and Cathy Areu, an on-air guest, originally filed a joint complaint on July 20, 2020, alleging Fox and multiple other individual defendants “cultivated and fostered sexual harassment and misconduct” and “consistently accepted and rewarded it.”

Areu alleged harassment by Henry, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and others. Areu’s claims were severed from Eckhart’s early this month and are being litigated separately. Areu also claims she was an “employee” of Fox in her complaint, citing the “substantial control” the company had over her working conditions, a characterization that Fox disputes.

The dismissal motions were filed Monday.

“Based on the findings of a comprehensive independent investigation conducted by an outside law firm, including interviews with numerous eyewitnesses, we have determined that all of Cathy Areu’s claims against FOX News, including its management as well as its hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity & Howard Kurtz and its contributor Gianno Caldwell, are false, patently frivolous and utterly devoid of any merit,” Fox News said in a statement.

“Ms. Areu and Jennifer Eckhart can pursue their claims against Ed Henry directly with him, as FOX News already took swift action as soon as it learned of Ms. Eckhart’s claims on June 25 and Mr. Henry is no longer employed by the network,” Fox added.

Judge Ronnie Abrams is assigned to the case.

Wigdor LLP represents Eckhart.

Proskauer Rose LLP and Jones Day represent Fox News.

Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC and Sale & Weintraub PA represent Henry.

The case is Eckhart v. Fox News Network LLC, S.D.N.Y., No. 20-cv-05593, 10/19/20.

((Revises eighth and ninth paragraphs to clarify Areu's relationship with Fox News. Adds comment from Fox News.))