Normally the king of the red carpet interview, publicists have warned their celebrity clients that they should stay away from E! host Ryan Seacrest at the upcoming Oscars red carpet after his former stylist went public with detailed accusations of sexual harassment against the star.
Suzie Hardy worked as Seacrest’s personal stylist on E! News from 2006 until 2013 when she alleges harassment by the host got to be too much and she reported it to human resources. She says her employment was terminated shortly thereafter. Allegations against Seacrest by Hardy first surfaced in November when a letter to NBCUniversal detailing her experiences was made public by Seacrest.
In the letter, Hardy outlines the abuse and harassment she underwent working for Seacrest including “bear hugs” in his underwear, consistent unwanted sexual attention and shoving her head into his crotch on several occasions. She said that initially the job was a “godsend” because of the steady pay and regular hours — something that was important to a single mother with a toddler. Her drive to support her daughter was also the reason she endured the abuse for so long.
When the letter was received by E!‘s parent company, Seacrest took it public, denying the allegations and calling them “reckless.” He also told the public that E! was launching an investigation into the situation and that he would be cooperating fully. NBCUniversal hired outside counsel to conduct the investigation which three months later concluded that there was “insufficient evidence to support the claims against Seacrest.” Case closed. Or so they thought.
In a story published Monday, Hardy detailed to Variety not just the harassment referred to in the November letter, but also how she experienced the investigation and interview process. While Seacrest seemed to feel vindicated by it, Hardy says that investigators were biased toward him and never interviewed the witnesses she directed them towards.
“Total exasperation was my definite feeling when I heard about it,” she told Variety, “I felt like by the third interview, it was obvious the investigator was whitewashing it for Seacrest’s side.” E! denies the bias and calls the investigation “extremely comprehensive and thorough.”
Seacrest responded to Variety‘s reporting in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter Tuesday, reiterating his November position that there was no misconduct.
“Yesterday, Variety published a salacious story that revealed the specific claims against me for the first time — even though an independent third-party investigator found insufficient evidence to support the claims,” he said, “Much to my dismay, Variety 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, all of which clearly challenged the veracity of the claims made against me.”
The host also claimed that Hardy offered on several occasions to withdraw her claims if Seacrest would pay her “millions of dollars” to which Seacrest refused. In a statement to Variety, Seacrest’s lawyer named the sum of $15 million as Hardy’s price for withdrawing her accusations. He also cited the investigation again as proof that there was no misconduct.
Wednesday the plot thickened once again with an unnamed former coworker of Hardy’s coming forward to NBC News to corroborate her harassment claims.
“She would go to tie his shoe and Ryan would shove her head toward his crotch,” he told NBC News correspondent Kate Snow by phone, “I saw that more than once.” He also detailed an incident before the 2008 Oscars red carpet special when he heard Hardy yell “get off of me” from inside Seacrest’s hotel room where she was supposed to be dressing him for the event.
“She was trying to get away from him,” the witness said, “I could see an erect penis in his underwear.” He added that Hardy emerged from the room looking visibly shaken by the encounter.
In light of the allegations and subsequent controversy, Page Six reports that several publicists have warned their clients to steer clear of Seacrest on the Oscar red carpet this Sunday.
“Usually Ryan is the one you want . . . but there are so many outlets on that carpet, why risk it?” said one PR source, “There’s plenty of other places for clients to get the exposure.”
Another source said it depends on the star 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.”