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Fox News proved a #MeToo lawsuit against them had “seemingly undisputed” allegations of sexual harassment

Fox News proved a #MeToo lawsuit against them had “seemingly undisputed” allegations of sexual harassment

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A #MeToo lawsuit against Fox News targeting its most popular nighttime opinion hosts, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, was just dismissed with prejudice over legal technicalities. But an unusual ruling from the judge called out Fox for failing to dispute incidents with serious workplace sexual harassment. (embedded below)

Federal Judge Ronnie Abrams ruled in favor of the right-wing television network to end the lawsuit, despite a clear pattern of its hosts sexually harassing a female journalist who appeared as a frequent guest on its top-rated programs.

Ironically though, it was Fox’s attempt to financially punish plaintiff Cathy Areu with frivolous lawsuit sanctions that led the judge to rule authoritatively on the merits of her sexual harassment case against a high-profile former anchor and a current Sunday morning host.

Areu appeared on Fox as the “Liberal Sherpa,” delivering news explaining the Democratic point of view to Fox viewers and promoting her Catalina Magazine and podcasts. She witnessed a series of abuses during the Trump era culminating with an alleged rape by now-former anchor Ed Henry.

However, when she filed suit, Fox News tried to sanction her for bringing legal heat against Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Henry, and longtime media critic Howard Kurtz. The network’s motion forced Judge Abrams to issue a rare early ruling on the merits of her allegations.

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“Areu’s claims are not legally frivolous,” ruled judge Abrams, despite Fox’s failed sanctions motion being supported by sworn statements from Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Howard Kurtz. “Nor are her claims factually frivolous.”

Areu spoke exclusively with Occupy Democrats today about her experience filing suit against Fox News,which she said she did primarily because she “wanted to stop them from continuing to hurt people.”

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“Thank goodness Fox is so cruel and, instead of apologizing for its hosts’ behavior toward me, it actually tried to claim that I filed suit frivolously,” said Areu commenting on the judge’s black and white language denying Fox’s motion to sanction her. “By doing this, they allowed the judge to rule that I was telling the truth. Fox actually got the judge to rule that some of my claims were virtually undisputed.”

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Indeed, the judge pointed out two telling incidents that Fox didn’t even manage to dispute.

As an initial matter, some of Areu’s allegations— including that Henry sent her pornographic images and that Kurtz told her that he “made a mental note” of the fact that she “d[idn’t] invite [him] over or come to [his] hotel room”—are seemingly undisputed.

Defendants do proffer evidence that they claim contradicts other factual allegations contained in Areu’s complaint. But none of this evidence suffices for the Court, on this record, to definitively determine that Areu’s allegations are false.

“It’s not surprising that a discrimination complaint was filed against Fox and its staff allegedly sent pornographic messages, made thinly veiled suggestions that Areu should go to hotel rooms, and then blocked her chances of advancement because she didn’t go along with it,” says Massachusetts lawyer J. Whitfield Larrabee, who specializes in workplace harassment claims.
“It’s very unusual for defendants to file a motion for sanctions against opposing counsel,” says Larrabee, “or to be awarded sanctions, where the plaintiff makes these types of allegations. It was an easy decision for the judge to deny the defendants’ motion for sanctions because there was some legal and factual substance to the complaint.”

“If you’re attractive and you’re a woman, you’re going to be both respected and taken advantage of; it’s a very strange work environment,” says a source familiar with Areu’s complaint who was inside Fox News at the time of the allegations. “Because Cathy didn’t perform any activities for the male hosts, or even the contributors, she didn’t get the same benefits as other attractive women on the network,”

“What’s going on there is harsh. It’s negative,” says the source who spoke exclusively with Occupy Democrats on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “There’s no need to run Fox with all of those discriminatory factors. Just because Cathy said no to Ed Henry, he singlehandedly ruined her career.”

In fact, the former Washington Post journalist Areu also filed a complaint against Fox for retaliating against her during the pendency of the lawsuit only to have the federal judge endorse their outside-of-court conduct as “defending themselves.”

“It’s quite a concerning ruling. I would never have done a single segment for Fox News had I known I didn’t have any protections,” she explained, continuing:

A producer for the Cavuto show once explained the concept to me. He told me it was difficult to get AOC, specifically, because she knew what it meant for Fox to own her image and voice and comments. They could abuse it at will. He laughed about this loophole. I didn’t realize it applied to me as well. I had no rights!

“Cathy was much more than just a basic occasional guest,” said a second source inside Fox who worked at the network when Areu was on its programs. “She was on frequently. Many times over the course of a single week across many shows. Sometimes more than one show on the same day. Enough that she was a fan favorite despite not being more right-leaning as the channel.”

Areu said that while she could have amended the lawsuit and continued the case for another year or two, her twin goal of supporting former colleague Jennifer Eckhart’s claims against Fox, and raising a red flag about the extreme misbehavior there, have both been achieved.

Here’s the judge’s opinion:

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Grant Stern
is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and an unpaid senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition and a Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.

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