Seacrest's former stylist has accused him of sexually harassing and assaulting her over the six years that she was employed by E! from 2007-13

By Aurelie Corinthios
March 04, 2018 05:05 PM

E! News staple Ryan Seacrest was business as usual during the network’s pre-Oscars coverage on Sunday — days after staunchly denying allegations of sexual misconduct.

The TV personality returned to host the red carpet show alongside Giuliana Rancic for the 90th Academy Awards, taking on his usual award show responsibilities. The network had previously confirmed to PEOPLE that Seacrest, 43, who has held the post since 2006, would be hosting as usual.

The appearance comes amid allegations from his former stylist Suzie Hardy, who has accused the producer and TV host of sexually harassing her over the six years that she was employed by E! from 2007-13, including grabbing her crotch multiple times. The network’s investigation into the matter, conducted by outside counsel, found “insuffient evidence” to support Hardy’s claims.

In a statement to PEOPLE on Tuesday, Seacrest accused Hardy of attempting to blackmail him.

“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. I absolutely support this cause unequivocally and applaud all the brave souls who have come forward to share their stories,” he said. “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.”

“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 continued. “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.”

“This person who has accused me of horrible things offered, on multiple occasions, to withdraw her claims if I paid her millions of dollars. I refused,” he continued. “I have worked extremely hard to achieve my success and I don’t take my opportunities for granted. I don’t want to accuse anyone of not telling the truth but in this case, I have no choice but to again deny the claims against me, remind people that I was recused of any wrongdoing, and put the matter to rest.”

In response to Seacrest’s statement, Hardy’s attorney, Howard E. King of King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano, LLP, told PEOPLE: “Not only is that false, but it is an attempt to smear the victim and divert attention from her very specific and supportable claims.”

A source told PEOPLE this week that Seacrest’s Live! co-host and close friend Kelly Ripa “is fully supportive and 110 percent behind him,” and his girlfriend Shayna Taylor has spoken out in his defense. Spokespeople for both American Idol and iHeartMedia also confirmed to PEOPLE they stand behind Seacrest.

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.