Ryan Seacrest will still host E!'s Oscars pre-show Sunday despite resurfaced sexual misconduct allegations against him
What’s the controversy?
Seacrest’s former E! News stylist, Suzie Hardy, has alleged that he sexually harassed and assaulted her — including grabbing her crotch multiple times — throughout her employment at E! from 2007-13.
Hardy claims in a letter obtained by Variety that Seacrest hugged her while wearing only underwear more than 10 times. She claims that while walking to set, Seacrest slid his hand under her crotch area. “Oh my god, are you going to sue me?” Hardy alleges Seacrest told her in 2008. “Not if I stay employed,” she replied. One of Hardy’s former coworkers who worked at E! News told Variety he witnessed Seacrest assault Hardy on at least two separate occasions in 2009. In the first incident, both Hardy and her coworker claim that Seacrest slapped her buttocks, which produced a welt hours later. She allegedly took a photo of it and gave it to E! and Variety. Hardy also alleges that while helping Seacrest get dressed for the Oscars, he allegedly threw her onto the bed, climbed on top of her and rubbed his erection on her.
Seacrest has adamantly denied Hardy’s allegations and accused Hardy of attempting to blackmail him, and his team has disputed Hardy’s timeline of events. An independent investigation commissioned by E! cleared Seacrest of any wrongdoing, finding “insufficient evidence.”
“Much has been said about the #MeToo and Times Up movement(s) and the importance of providing women and men with the opportunity to share their stories of workplace misconduct, in an effort to change our culture and the systemic inequalities that exist,” Seacrest told PEOPLE in a statement. “I absolutely support this cause unequivocally and applaud all the brave souls who have come forward to share their storie.”,” Seacrest’s statement began.
He continued: “Sadly, last fall I became one of the accused, which I promptly revealed proactively to the network involved and to the public. And to be equally clear, those accusations were then investigated by an independent third-party over the course of a two-month process and involved dozens of interviews that included me, the accused and countless others. Ultimately, my name was cleared. I eagerly participated in the investigation in order to demonstrate my innocence because I know my truth, and I believe in due process.”
What have actors said?
Jennifer Lawrence told Howard Stern on Wednesday that she wasn’t sure if she’d agree to an interview with Seacrest at the Oscars.
“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.”
Sadler, 43, was a hot topic on the Golden Globes carpet in January, when stars like Debra Messing, Eva Longoria, Sarah Jessica Parker and Reese Witherspoon brought up her departure from the network during interviews with Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic.
“We’re also here for Time’s Up, we support gender equality and equal pay and we hope that E! follows that lead and we stand with Catt,” said Longoria, 42.
Scandal‘s Bellamy Young initially called on E! to exclude Seacrest from Oscars coverage but apologized the next day, admitting she had since learned he “has been exonerated from the allegations I was told about on the carpet.”
What do publicists predict?
Who’s supporting Seacrest?
Seacrest’s girlfriend, 26-year-old chef Shayna Taylor, posted a loving Instagram calling him “the most respectful, well mannered, civil, gracious, loving, kind human being.”
“I cannot wait to see you there,” Ripa, 47, said of the Oscars during their show. “I am very excited. And I just want you to know, you are a privilege to work with and I adore you. Speaking on behalf of all of us here, I know what a easy, professional, great person you are, and I feel very, very lucky to work with you each and every day.”
Jayson Stacy, Seacrest’s stylist/makeup artist of 13 years, came to his boss’s defense in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE.
“I never once heard anyone say that he’s done anything to make them feel uncomfortable – that he’s been mean to them, that they wanted to leave their job because of him,” said Stacy, who worked alongside Hardy for six years. “I never saw any of the things that she’s alleging. It’s unbelievable to me.”
Hardy’s attorney, Howard E. King, said in a statement to PEOPLE on Thursday, “I am sure that Ryan can present lots of employees who were not present when the incidents occurred to say they saw nothing. That is probative of nothing. Let’s see Ryan (not his representatives) publicly declare that he never touched Suzie’s genitals, never slapped her posterior and never chased her around in his underwear with an erection. He will never do that.”
And a source close to Ryan tells PEOPLE, “Ryan plays by his own rules at E! and they love him. … Does he have a funny sense of humor and sometimes crosses a line with what he says? Yes. Can anyone close to him professionally or personally imagine him forcing himself on someone? No. Hopefully is it not true.”
The 90th Oscars will be held on Sunday, March 4, 2018, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, and will be broadcast live on the ABC Television Network at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.
- with reporting by DAN WAKEFORD