While Ryan Seacrest was under investigation for sexual misconduct — years of harassment and abuse, according to his accuser, though the public didn’t know the details yet — he hosted E!’s Golden Globes red carpet pre-show. Three weeks later, while the investigation was still underway, he hosted the network’s red carpet pre-show at the Grammy Awards. And three days from now, Seacrest will slip back into his suit and tie for E! as he hosts the pre-show at the biggest red carpet of the year: the Academy Awards.
Months before the Grammys and the Golden Globes, a former stylist had filed an HR complaint. Her name was not yet known to the public, but a third party was already conducting an internal investigation, consisting of interviews with at least two dozen of Seacrest’s colleagues. E! announced the investigation publicly in mid-November, two days after Seacrest disclosed the allegations to the media, an effort to get ahead of a media firestorm that, it turned out, was still over three months away.
The allegations against Seacrest, and the subsequent investigation into his behavior, seemed like the sort of news that should have sparked instant, widespread outrage. After all, it came to light just about a month after the explosive stories about Harvey Weinstein broke, and amid an unprecedented reckoning around sexual violence in the entertainment industry — and in all industries, really, as the surround-sound shouts of “me too” echoed across the country. Instead, they barely caused a ripple. (The New York Times has been tracking all the high-profile men accused of sexual misconduct and the fallout, or lack thereof, from those allegations; Seacrest was not added to the list in November and, at press time, still isn’t included there.)
Perhaps Seacrest was able to escape some scrutiny due to an especially busy news cycle. The day before E! announced its investigation, former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) was accused of sexually harassing multiple women, groping and forcibly kissing some, one of whom had photo evidence of his crime. A few days later, the news broke of the searing investigation into Charlie Rose — who allegedly harassed at least eight women, groping them and making graphic phone calls to them — leading to his swift firing from CBS and PBS.
Or maybe Seacrest benefited from the fact that the claims against him were vague. The accuser wasn’t famous, at least not that anyone knew; unlike so many other stories of sexual harassment, the details were still private. No chilling visual of a boss in a bathrobe accompanied the information about Seacrest’s misconduct; E! revealed only that the former stylist worked at E! News when Seacrest did and alleged abuse that had occurred about a decade earlier.
At the Golden Globes in January, Seacrest was widely ridiculed by viewers for his failure to ask thoughtful questions about the Time’s Up movement, launched just a week before the event, or to direct literally any questions about sexual harassment toward men. But it does not appear any audience complaints referenced the fact that Seacrest was simultaneously interviewing the founder of the Me Too movement and being investigated for his own alleged acts of sexual violence in the workplace.
Seacrest was not suspended at any point: Not by E! or its parent company, NBCUniversal; not by ABC, where he cohosts Live with Kelly and Ryan with Kelly Ripa and will be on hand for the American Idol reboot, premiering March 11; not by KIIS-FM or its owner iHeartRadio, which airs his syndicated morning show On Air with Ryan Seacrest and which selected Seacrest’s charity, the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, as the beneficiary for the 2017 Jingle Ball.
So why, all of a sudden — months after the investigation into Seacrest was closed, “insufficient evidence” for his dismissal obtained — is there growing pressure from the public to bar Seacrest from the red carpet outside Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre on Sunday night?
Because the allegations against Seacrest, once attached to no one in particular and described in the indistinct language of someone trying less to inform than to not get sued (go ahead, close your eyes and do your best to picture “misconduct”) now belong to a person with a name, a story, and the kind of details that stick in a reader’s head like the hook from a song atop the America’s Top 40 show Seacrest still hosts. On Monday, with less than a week to go before the Oscars, Suzie Hardy told her story to Variety.
November 10, 2017
A former stylist accuses Seacrest of sexual misconduct. An attorney for Suzie Hardy, who worked as Seacrest’s personal stylist from 2007 to 2013, sends a letter to E!, NBCUniveral, and Seacrest, alleging Hardy experienced years of “unwanted sexual aggression” at Seacrest’s hands.
In the letter, later obtained by Variety, Hardy’s attorney asked that E! and Seacrest “come up with a plan to address the treatment of all women at the networks and to take responsibility for the wrongful treatment” of Hardy. If the request went unanswered, the letter warned, “more formal action” will follow.
November 15, 2017
Seacrest takes the allegations public. He releases a statement, apologizing “if” he made his accuser, who he says is female, “feel anything but respected,” while denying the allegations. He does not reveal Hardy’s name (her identity is not known until she eventually goes public in February).
Seacrest promises to cooperate fully with “any corporate inquiries” that may result:
“Throughout my 25 years in the entertainment industry, the majority of my co-workers have been women, and I’ve endeavored to foster a positive work environment of mutual respect and courtesy, as that’s how I believe it should be. I’m distraught that anyone or any situation would call that into question. I’m proud of my workplace reputation, and believe my track record will speak for itself. I’m an advocate for women. I will continue to support their voices.”
Deadline reports that “a source close to the situation” said the accuser wanted “a substantial amount of money to keep quiet.” Seacrest “refused and decided to go public.”
TMZ reports that Seacrest’s accuser, through her attorney, demanded $15 million in exchange for her silence. According to “sources familiar with the case,” the woman’s lawyer met with Seacrest’s lawyer, while Seacrest was on the phone, and “read aloud a press release” that they threatened to make public “unless Seacrest met her financial demands.”
The accuser’s attorney denies that his client ever asked for $15 million, telling TMZ that the woman only “wanted an apology from Ryan and validation of what had happened and what she got was a complete rejection of the allegations and a request that she not go forward with an interview with NBC investigators.”
November 17, 2017
E! announces it is conducting an internal investigation into misconduct allegations against Seacrest. No details of the incident are made public; E! shares only that “a former stylist who worked at E! News when Seacrest worked there” alleged that abuse had occurred about ten years earlier.
December 1, 2017
Seacrest attends the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball. He appears onstage and interviews artists for live segments. Each year, Jingle Ball designates an official charity; this year’s is the Ryan Seacrest Foundation. $1.00 of each ticket sold is donated to the non-profit, which is “dedicated to inspiring today’s youth through entertainment and education focused initiatives.”
December 31, 2017
Seacrest co-hosts Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on ABC. It’s his 13th consecutive year hosting the show. As in years prior, he leads the countdown to midnight.
January 7, 2018
Seacrest hosts E!’s live red carpet coverage of the 75th Golden Globe Awards. At the event, held less than a week after the launch of Time’s Up — the formal Hollywood initiative to combat sexual harassment within the entertainment industry and beyond — many attendees wear all black attire to draw attention to the organization and to stand in solidarity with victims of sexual misconduct. Several actresses, including Meryl Streep and Emma Stone, bring female activists as their plus-ones.
Many viewers note that Seacrest only directs questions about sexual harassment and Time’s Up toward women, failing to bring up the issue with men — even the men who are wearing Time’s Up lapel pins. In some interviews, he avoids the subject entirely. He interrupts actress Michelle Williams when she is praising her guest, Tarana Burke, who founded the Me Too movement back in 1997, almost 20 years before her rallying cry became a viral hashtag.
It is the first awards show of the post-Weinstein era, and almost every woman who has a minute at the microphone speaks passionately about sexual harassment and gender discrimination, from Natalie Portman’s sassy ad-lib (“and here are the all-male nominees”) to Oprah’s galvanizing speech, which hits its crescendo as she bellows, “For too long women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.”
January 28, 2018
Seacrest cohosts E!’s Grammy Awards pre-show. Along with Guiliana Rancic, Seacrest interviews stars both about the white roses some chose to wear — the night’s gesture toward Time’s Up and #MeToo — as well as their music, fashion, and other typical red carpet fare.
February 1, 2018
The E! investigation finds “insufficient evidence to substantiate allegations against Seacrest.” E! stands by the conclusions of the investigation, which was conducted by an independent third party.
February 5, 2018
Seacrest writes a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter entitled “What happened after I was wrongly accused of harassment.” He writes that having his “workplace conduct questioned was gut-wrenching,” adding that he “absolutely want[s] to be part of the change, the progress, that is coming.”
He goes on:
“Most of us agree that the presumption of innocence is an important standard… At a time when improper interactions between men and women, particularly in the workplace, are part of a national conversation, we must find a way to ensure that everyone — the public, private and public institutions, accusers and alleged accused — is given the opportunity for a swift and fair review.”
Seacrest also writes that the was told the independent investigation found “no evidence of wrongdoing on my part” — though the official statement from E! does not go that far, saying only that there was “insufficient evidence” to back up the allegations against Seacrest.
February 26, 2018
Suzie Hardy comes forward, revealing her identity and the details of her allegations publicly for the first time. Hardy tells Variety that Seacrest subjected her “to years of unwanted sexual aggression — grinding his erect penis against her while clad only in his underwear, groping her vagina, and at one point slapping her buttock so hard that it left a large welt still visible hours later.”
Hardy was Seacrest’s personal stylist for E! News, a job that seemed like a godsend when she landed it in 2007, as it provided steady pay and consistent hours — something the single mom, whose daughter was in preschool when she accepted the offer to work for Seacrest, was relieved and grateful to find.
Hardy says that Seacrest’s harassment and assault, which she says she only tolerated so she could provide for her daughter, endured for the duration of her employment, which ended when, in 2013, she reported Seacrest’s abuse to human resources. She says she asked to be moved to another project but was terminated instead. (She now works in Silicon Valley for a tech company.)
She also tells Variety that the E! investigator did not interview four people she told him could corroborate elements of her story: “The investigator was whitewashing it for Seacrest’s side.”
E! refutes Hardy’s description of the investigation. In a statement, the network defends the two-month investigation as “extremely comprehensive and thorough,” consisting of interviews with “more than two dozen people regarding the allegations, including multiple separate meetings with the claimant and all firsthand witnesses that she provided… Any claims that question the legitimacy of this investigation are completely baseless.”
E! also disputes Hardy’s claims that she was fired rather than reassigned, saying that Hardy’s E! job ended because Seacrest left his E! News post and Hardy was only employed as Seacrest’s stylist.
February 27, 2018
Seacrest appears as planned on Live with Kelly & Ryan. Neither Seacrest nor his cohost Kelly Ripa address the allegations on air, though Ripa does say Seacrest still plans to be on the Oscars red carpet.
Seacrest was named as Ripa’s permanent cohost last spring. He is paid $15 million a year to cohost the daytime talk show.
In a statement, Seacrest denies Hardy’s allegations, citing the result of the two-month investigation into her claims: “Ultimately, my name was cleared.”
Seacrest begins his statement by stating his “support” of the Me Too and Time’s Up movements. He goes on to call Variety‘s story “salacious” and says the magazine “didn’t speak with me or bother to speak with other credible witnesses or even ask for any of the evidence that was obtained during the investigation when offered.”
“I don’t want to accuse anyone of not telling the truth but in this case, I have no choice but to again deny the claims against me, remind people that I was recused of any wrongdoing, and put the matter to rest.”
He also says his accuser asked him for money “on multiple occasions.”
Hardy’s lawyer says Seacrest’s claim that Hardy demanded money is “an attempt to smear the victim and divert attention from her very specific and supportable claims.”
Variety’s co-editor-in-chief refutes Seacrest’s claim that the magazine “didn’t speak” with him. Claudia Eller writes on Twitter that Variety spoke with Seacrest’s attorney and his publicist on background for an hour, and adds Seacrest’s representatives would not make him available for an interview.
We asked to speak to Seacrest directly and his reps declined to make him available. Seacrest’s reps claimed to have evidence discrediting the accuser, Suzie Hardy, but refused to provide that as well, citing legal restrictions. 3/3
— Claudia Eller (@Variety_Claudia) February 27, 2018
An E! spokesperson confirms Seacrest will still host E!’s Oscars red carpet show. Asked by Variety if Seacrest would still host, the spokesperson replies, “Of course he is.”
A source close to the new American Idol tells Variety that Seacrest will appear on the program as planned. The original American Idol launched Seacrest’s career when it premiered in 2002. Seacrest is being paid $12 million per year to return to the show.
The New York Post’s Page Six reports that publicists are advising stars to avoid Seacrest on the Oscars red carpet. Top Hollywood publicists tell say they would “direct their clients to Seacrest’s co-host, Giuliana Rancic, or skip E! altogether.”
“Usually Ryan is the one you want . . . but there are so many outlets on that carpet, why risk it? There’s plenty of other places for clients to get the exposure,” one PR powerhouse told us.
Another PR source said it would depend on the client, but “if it was a [client who had been involved in the #MeToo movement], I would never put them in that position. I don’t think any smart person would.”
Hardy challenges Seacrest’s denial, telling Variety, “He is not the victim here”:
“I remained quiet for years out of fears that my story wouldn’t be believed and that I would be subject to scorn and ridicule for telling it. I was emboldened by the bravery of others to finally and confidentially tell my story to NBC. Ryan elected to take the story public with a false narrative that he was exonerated and the victim of some sort of money grab. He is not the victim, and I refuse to let him victimize me for telling the truth.”
February 28, 2018
A former coworker of Hardy’s corroborates her story, telling NBC News he witnessed the harassment Hardy described: “She would go to tie his shoe and Ryan would shove her head toward his crotch. I saw that more than once.” He also says he witnessed Seacrest’s “bear hug” of Hardy from behind before an Oscars red carpet special in 2008. “She yelled, ‘get off of me.’ She was trying to get away from him… I could see an erect penis in his underwear.”
The information airs on the Today show. The man’s identity is not revealed, as he still works in Hollywood and fears retaliation for speaking out.
A source close to Seacrest tells NBC that the former coworker is “a friend of Hardy’s and a disgruntled former E! employee.”
Seacrest’s attorney, Andrew Baum, says the former coworker’s allegations are “nothing new.” The former coworker “participated in the third-party investigation; he was interviewed and his claims were fully evaluated, as were the claims of everyone else in involved in this matter.” He dismisses the allegations as an “extortion attempt.” Seacrest’s team also responds with an old video of Hardy tying Seacrest’s shoe.
On Live with Kelly and Ryan, Ripa potentially alludes to the allegations against Seacrest. Ripa asks Seacrest, “Do you want me to put your shoes back on for you? I’m a mom, I can do that.”As Page Six reports, this could be reference to Hardy’s claim that Seacrest pushed her head toward his crotch when she was tying his shoes.
An NBC source tells Page Six that “many execs at NBC Universal can’t see how” Seacrest could still host the Oscars red carpet pre-show on E!, particularly in light of the news that publicists are instructing their talent to stay away from Seacrest. “It doesn’t look good for Seacrest, even though he denies it and was cleared by an internal investigation.”
NBCUniversal confirms to Deadline that Seacrest will still anchor E!’s Oscar coverage.
Jennifer Lawrence says she isn’t sure if she will speak to Seacrest on the Oscar’s red carpet. During an appearance on The Howard Stern Show, Lawrence is asked about how the allegations against Seacrest will affect her willingness to grant Seacrest an interview on Sunday night.
“Umm, I don’t know,” she said. “I mean, there is a lot to think about with E!, you know? I have always had a problem with the Fashion Police. I don’t have a problem with talking about what women are wearing. There was a time they were… they were just mean about people’s bodies, things you shouldn’t say.”
Lawrence also referenced Catt Sadler, a former E! News host who left the network because she learned she wasn’t being paid as much as her male co-hosts. (Lawrence and Sadler are working on a #MeToo docuseries together.) “They aren’t bringing another costar up,” Lawrence said. “I have noticed that they keep cycling these women and I am going… is that so you don’t have to pay another woman equally to Jason [Kennedy]? Is this just a way to still maintain that you are not paying women equally?”
March 4, 2018
Tarana Burke, founder of Me Too, says she E! shouldn’t send Seacrest to the Oscars. In an interview with Variety, she says, “They really shouldn’t send him. We shouldn’t have to make those choices of, ‘Do we or don’t we?’”
“This is not about his guilt or innocence. It’s about there being an accusation that’s alive, and until they sort it out, it’s really on E! News and shouldn’t be on us. … It will let us know where they stand in terms of how respectful E! News is of this issue – and of women.”
Seacrest anchors E!’s red carpet coverage at the Oscars. Many of the nominated stars avoid him on the red carpet, as pre-show reports anticipated.
One star who did speak to Seacrest was Christopher Plummer, who was nominated for his performance in All the Money in the World — a role he only got because Kevin Spacey, accused by many men of sexual harassment and violence, was erased from the picture by director Ridley Scott. Seacrest got through the interview without mentioning the Spacey-related backstory.
Taraji P. Henson was talking to Seacrest about Mary J Blige, a double nominee whose performance of her nominated song from Mudbound would be introduced by Henson that night, when she maybe put a curse on him.
“You know what,” Henson said. “The universe has a way of taking care of the good people.” She paused and gave Seacrest a little pinch on the chin. “You know what I mean?”
March 5, 2018
Seacrest’s hosting is widely slammed by critics. A particularly searing review of Seacrest and E! from Tom & Lorenzo (emphasis added):
Almost every A-lister and nominee ignored Seacrest completely and he was stuck – with an increasingly frantic look on his face – chatting for long periods of time with such red carpet stars as Christopher Plummer and Donald Sutherland. All the stars basically ran right past what was once a more or less required stop on the red carpet, shunning the man who had been more or less its mayor and goodwill ambassador for years… The result was the worst-covered red carpet we’ve ever seen. A fitting end to the most tense and politically active awards season ever.
Taraji P. Henson tells People magazine that her comments were “misconstrued.” Her pinch was “to keep his chin up,” she said. “It’s an awkward position to be in. He’s been cleared but anyone can say anything.”
Asked by People “point-blank” if she was supporting Seacrest, she said, “absolutely.”
March 6, 2018
E!’s red carpet coverage, hosted by Seacrest, dropped 35 percent total from the previous year. As Variety reports, “the drop-off also coincides with the Oscars hitting a new low in viewership, with the nearly four-hour telecast drawing 26.5 million viewers for ABC, down 19% from last year.”
Variety also notes that the post-Oscars episode of Live with Kelly and Ryan “put up its best numbers since Seacrest joined the show last May,” coming in as Monday’s top syndicated talk show.
March 9, 2018
ABC’s American Idol producers stand by Seacrest. According to The Hollywood Reporter, both ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey and Cecile Frot-Coutaz, CEO of the show’s producer, FremantleMedia, are sticking with Seacrest for the reboot of the series that launched Seacrest to fame.
“We stand by the results of the investigation,” says Dungey, referencing the independent inquiry E! commissioned that cleared Seacrest. Adds Frot-Coutaz: “I’ve known Ryan now for almost 16 years. I stand by him. Obviously it’s unfortunate. I’m not privy to the details. He seems to be very robust in his defense. And we’ll see where it all goes.”
March 29, 2018
Suzie Hardy announces that she “recently” filed a police report with the LAPD. In a guest column for the Hollywood Reporter, she writes, “Everyone in Hollywood who stands by Ryan now is choosing not to believe me.” She also claims that NBC did not conduct interviews with 10 of the witnesses she provided, including her then-boyfriend and her therapist. Once the investigation was closed, “NBC refused to provide me with any of its findings or even the HR reports from my 2012 claims.” (THR confirmed that the LAPD is investigating Hardy’s allegations.)
She writes that it was “never my intention to go public” and in fact “stayed away from HR” while her harassment persisted “because I was informed it was a one-way ticket to the unemployment line. But because so many of the incidents occurred in front of other people, HR actually called me in to ask if there was something going on romantically between me and my boss. When asked on the spot, I spilled everything to them … and then was systematically flushed.”