ABC isn’t just defending Ryan Seacrest, they are standing firmly behind him, reports the Hollywood Reporter. The embattled host is currently under scrutiny for allegations of sexual misconduct by his former stylist, Suzie Hardy, when they worked together at E! News. Disney/ABC, which purchased the rights to American Idol in 2016, is rebooting the series after its Fox finale two years ago, with Seacrest returning to hosting duties. Seacrest has denied all allegations of sexual harassment.
Seacrest is accused of, among other things, pressing his crotch into Hardy’s face as she was tying his shoes, hugging her while in his underwear, slapping her butt hard enough to leave a red mark, and groping her genital area, which she claims caused her to cry. After the assault, Seacrest allegedly asked her, “Are you going to sue me?” Hardy replied that she would not if she was able to keep her job.
As a single mother, Hardy says she felt unable to speak out about Seacrest’s alleged advances for fear of losing her employment. “I didn’t know how to deal with [it]...I was battling finally being in a decent financial position to breathe and be a mum, that I didn’t have to be freaking out all the time, and then dealing with this infantile celebrity person who was testing me on every level and manipulating me and knew that I was in a vulnerable position,” she told Variety. Hardy also alleges that when she brought the matter to human resources at E!, she was terminated from her job two weeks later.
When the allegations were brought to E!’s attention, the network conducted an investigation and ultimately cleared Seacrest of any wrongdoing. Channing Dungey, ABC’s Entertainment president told THR that “we stand by the results of the investigation.” E! previously defended the quality of their investigation, telling Refinery29 that “over the course of a two month process, our outside counsel interviewed more than two dozen people regarding the allegations, including multiple separate meetings with the claimant and all firsthand witnesses that she provided. The investigator is an attorney with nearly 20 years experience and is highly regarded professionally. Any claims that question the legitimacy of this investigation are completely baseless."
FremantleMedia, which produces American Idol, also supports Seacrest. Their CEO, Cecile Frot-Coutaz, told THR: “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 defence. And we'll see where it all goes.”
The revamped American Idol will premiere on Sunday 11th March. The new Idol judges include singers Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Ritchie, with Seacrest reprising his former role as host.
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