Last week, the Huffington Post published a scathing report, citing more than a dozen sources, alleging Fox News personality Eric Bolling sent lewd, unsolicited photos to at least three colleagues. The report said the women, all Bolling’s current or former colleagues at Fox News, found the images of male genitalia they received from Bolling “deeply upsetting and offensive.” In addition to the recipients, whose identities were kept private, four people said they had seen a photo, and eight others said the recipients had told them about the messages they received.
The network announced on Saturday that Bolling would be suspended pending its investigation into HuffPost’s report. Bolling’s attorney said “the anonymous, uncorroborated claims are untrue and terribly unfair,” but that they intended to fully cooperate with the investigation.
Now it appears Bolling intends to escalate the situation. On Wednesday, he slapped the reporter, Yashar Ali, with a $50 million lawsuit citing “defamation arising from the defendant’s efforts to injure the plaintiff’s reputation through the intentional and/or highly reckless publication of actionable false and misleading statements about the plaintiff’s conduct and character.” It’s unusual for such a lawsuit to target just the reporter rather than the publication.
“Yashar Ali is a careful and meticulous reporter. We stand by his reporting,” HuffPost said in a statement Wednesday evening. Ali also took to Twitter to defend his reporting and emphasize that he wouldn’t be swayed by the lawsuit.
Not going to stop reporting on Eric Bolling or anyone else. I've had family members killed/jailed in Iran, a lawsuit isn't going to scare me https://t.co/nvludsIV87
— Yashar Ali (@yashar) August 9, 2017
The firm representing Bolling, Kasowitz Beson Torres LLP, is that of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz.
Bolling has long been a staunch supporter of Trump, recently going to great lengths to theorize that it was in fact Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton who sought to collude with the Russian government during last year’s presidential campaign. In June, Trump retweeted Bolling’s tweet promoting his new book, The Swamp: Washington’s Murky Pool of Corruption and Cronyism and How Trump Can Drain It, a possible violation of a ban that prohibits federal employees from endorsing any “product, service, or enterprise.”
— Eric Bolling (@ericbolling) June 27, 2017
The allegations against Bolling come on the heels of a series of sexual assault and harassment claims against top executives and on-air personalities within Fox News. Last year, host Gretchen Carlson sued then-CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. Ailes left the company last July, and several other women subsequently came forward with their own accusations. In April, a New York Times investigation revealed the network had paid out $13 million to five different women to keep their sexual harassment allegations against host Bill O’Reilly quiet; once advertisers began to flee O’Reilly’s show en masse, he was let go with a hefty buyout. Last month, the network suspended Fox Business host Charles Payne as a harassment investigation against him unfolded (he has yet to return to work and flatly denies the allegations).
Trump, who was caught on tape bragging about groping women, defended both Ailes and O’Reilly after the accusations of sexual harassment against them became public.