On Live with Kelly and Ryan Thursday morning, co-host Kelly Ripa defended Ryan Seacrest's moral standing in light of recent allegations of sexual harassment.
"You are a privilege to work with and I adore you. I’m speaking on behalf of all of us here. I know what an easy, professional, great person you are, and I feel very very lucky to work with you each and every day," Ripe told Seacrest on the air. Her statement of support followed a lengthy discussion about the upcoming Academy Awards, where Seacrest will be working as an E! News correspondent. Though Ripa did not address the allegations directly, her statement of support was a clear nod towards the brewing storm surrounding Seacrest's upcoming role at the Oscars red carpet.
This is the first time Ripa and Seacrest have addressed the allegations on air, although Variety published the full account of the accusations against Seacrest Monday afternoon. Stylist Suzie Hardy detailed years of alleged abuse and harassment, all of which Seacrest categorically denies. E! investigated Hardy's allegations earlier this year and, in early February, announced that the investigation had found insufficient evidence. Following his reprieve, Seacrest published an essay in The Hollywood Reporter titled "What Happened After I Was Wrongly Accused Of Sexual Harassment."
In a statement released Monday evening, E! reiterated that its investigation of Hardy's claims had been thorough and that any evidence to the contrary was "baseless." Despite this insistence of innocence, pressure for Seacrest to recuse himself from the upcoming Academy Awards is mounting. On Howard Stern's radio show this week, as per People, Jennifer Lawrence admitted that she's not sure if she'd be speaking to Seacrest on the red carpet at the Oscars this year.
“There are already [news] outlets that I’m just like, ‘Nah,’” she told Stern. “So it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.” She also expressed concern about the E! network in general, which has come under fire for not paying former correspondent Catt Sadler the same amount as co-host Jason Kennedy.
An additional report from Page Six claimed that E! is scrambling to ensure a "crisis-free" ceremony for Seacrest, something the network wasn't able to do earlier this year. At the 2018 Golden Globes in January, actress Debra Messing told E! host Giuliana Rancic on the red carpet that she was "shocked" to discover that E! did not provide pay parity for Catt Sadler. Given that the Time's Up movement has made sexual harassment a focus on red carpets this year, it's hard to imagine this kind of awkward interview wouldn't happen with Seacrest at the Oscars. Page Six reported that publicists have been instructed to shuttle the "softball" interviewees to Seacrest so that he won't have to face tough questions like Rancic did in January. But who in this climate is going to lob softballs on the most high-profile carpet of the year? And, if Seacrest sticks to safe bets, he'll be hurting his own visibility. E! may have found themselves in a bind.
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