ABC and E! Stand by Ryan Seacrest in Face of Details of Sexual Harassment Allegations

Ryan seacrest MeToo Sexual Harassment Scandal
David Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutter

Suzie Hardy, Ryan Seacrest’s former stylist for E! News, has accused the ubiquitous television host of multiple instances of sexual harassment and abuse over the seven years that she worked for him. In an exclusive Variety report published Feb. 26, Hardy claimed that Seacrest groped her vagina, rubbed his erect penis against her while clad only in his underwear and slapped her buttock so hard that it left a large welt still visible hours later.

“As proud as I am and as strong a woman as I am, as smart as I am and as much work as I’ve done with therapists, it really affected me,” Hardy told Variety.

The allegations — first made in a Nov. 10 letter from Hardy’s attorney to Seacrest, E! and the cable channel’s corporate parent, NBCUniversal — have the potential to affect far more than Seacrest and the network he used to call home. So far the host’s business partners are standing by him.

A powerful figure in front of and behind the camera when Hardy worked for him from 2007 to 2013, Seacrest has only grown in stature and influence since. Last year he was named co-host of Kelly Ripa’s daytime talk show, which was retitled “Live With Kelly & Ryan.” And next month he is set to return to the role that turned him into a TV star with the premiere of the new “American Idol” on ABC. Seacrest is being paid $12 million a year for his work on “Idol” — having closed the deal with the FremantleMedia-produced competition within weeks of starting his daytime-talker duties — and $15 million per year for “Live.”

A source close to both programs told Variety that Seacrest would appear as planned on New York-based “Live” on Feb. 27 and would be in Los Angeles the following weekend to film “Idol.”

The “Idol” and “Live” gigs deepened Seacrest’s relationship with ABC, where he has hosted “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” since 2005. Last year he inked an overall deal for scripted programming development at ABC Studios, moving his Ryan Seacrest Prods. there from CBS Television Studios.

A spokesperson for ABC declined to comment for this story.

Seacrest continues to have a relationship with E!, where he produces “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” Although he no longer works on the daily “E! News” telecast, he still hosts event coverage for the cable channel. Asked via email whether Seacrest will, as planned, is to serve as host for the channel’s red-carpet pre-show for the Academy Awards, an E! spokesperson wrote, “Of course he is.”

Seacrest’s presence on the red carpet in the wake of detailed harassment and abuse allegations has the potential to create an embarrassing situation for E! and the host. Awards-show red carpets have been dominated this year by the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, sparked by coverage of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. At the Golden Globe Awards in January, most women wore black dresses in a show of support for the movements. Several actresses, including Meryl Streep and Emma Watson, brought advocates for sexual-assault victims with them as guests and were accompanied by them in their red-carpet interviews.

“As proud as I am and as strong a woman as I am … it really affected me.”
Suzie Hardy, former E! stylist

Seacrest wore a black shirt and tie with his black tuxedo at the Globes but drew criticism on social media for what some viewers interpreted as a dismissive attitude toward actresses looking to focus attention in their red-carpet interviews to sexual-harassment issues. Several Twitter users pointed out that he appeared to interrupt actress Michelle Williams as she offered praise for activist and #MeToo founder Tarana Burke.

In December, E! host Catt Sadler announced she was leaving the network after learning that co-host Jason Kennedy earned a much higher salary than she did. Several actresses, including Debra Messing and Eva Longoria, referenced the pay dispute during their own interviews with E! on the carpet for the Golden Globes.

Seacrest has repeatedly denied accusations of misconduct. In November, a week after being contacted by Hardy’s attorney, he issued a public statement
saying that “someone that worked as a wardrobe stylist for me nearly a decade ago at E! News” had issued a complaint against him, without revealing the specifics of the allegation. After E! announced Feb. 1 that an investigator it had hired found “insufficient evidence” of wrongdoing by Seacrest, the host wrote a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter titled, “What Happened After I Was Wrongly Accused of Harassment.” Seacrest’s attorney told Variety in a statement that Hardy had demanded $15 million from the host, an allegation that Hardy and her attorney deny.

Hardy told Variety that the investigator had declined to interview four corroborating sources she had referred him to. “It was obvious the investigator was whitewashing it for Seacrest’s side,” she said.