“I am standing up for myself, for women and for what’s right,” McHenry tweeted on Tuesday. “I have maintained the same allegations because the truth doesn’t change. I feel for any sexual harassment victim who has their story and evidence dismissed, doubted and not believed.”
McHenry said late Tuesday that she can prove the allegations she’s made against her employer.
“I look forward to my day in court,” she added.
There is documentation to prove everything I have claimed. I look forward to my day in court.— Britt McHenry (@BrittMcHenry) December 11, 2019
In a statement to The Washington Post, a spokesperson for Fox News said the network expects the suit will be dismissed.
“Ms. McHenry’s lawsuit recycles the same allegations she filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights in October, to which we filed a response on Friday,” the spokesperson said to The Post. “As we have previously stated, Ms. McHenry’s allegations have been fully investigated and we are confident our actions will be deemed entirely appropriate in litigation.”
Tom Clare, Tyrus’s attorney, said in a statement that Tyrus has denied the allegations in the lawsuit and would be defending it “vigorously,” in addition to filing defamation counterclaims.
“He looks forward to having a public forum in the court system to clear his name from the smear campaign that had been waged against him in the media,” Clare said.
After more than three years grappling with the fallout of sexual harassment complaints against some of its biggest names — against figures like Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly — the network’s uneven record on the issue has already cast a long shadow over the lawsuit.
“It is no wonder, against this backdrop, that Ms. McHenry’s harasser felt emboldened,” said the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. “In accordance with Fox News’ long history of tolerating sexual harassment and targeting women who report it, Fox News then punished the victim and rewarded the harasser.”
McHenry’s allegations center on sexually explicit messages sent to her by Tyrus, starting shortly after they met at a work dinner in August 2018.
Both personalities were unconventional selections to host a show on Fox News: Tyrus, who was once Snoop Dogg’s bodyguard, had started out wrestling on WWE. McHenry, who had reported for ESPN and once made headlines for an outburst at a towing-lot employee, crossed over into right-leaning media through her increasingly provocative social media feeds.
Last fall, they were set to begin a co-hosting a show on Fox Nation, the network’s continuous streaming platform. Called “Un-PC,” it was billed as a platform where two hosts could “speak our minds on the topics other people are afraid of.”
Yet, before the show even began filming in October 2018, McHenry said that Tyrus began sending her explicit text messages and making inappropriate comments to her in person.
“I love pony tails and braids you look amazing and it’s a real turn on,” read one text message from the wrestler, according to the lawsuit. “Not that you care but I love it.”
On New Year’s Eve 2018, when Tyrus learned McHenry had brought her boyfriend to a Fox taping that night, he immediately became “hostile and aggressive,” the lawsuit said.
According to the lawsuit, however, his increased hostility led McHenry to seek help from Fox management three times — each to no avail. Throughout 2019, she repeatedly sought out their show’s executive producer, Jennifer Rauchet, to file harassment complaints about Tyrus’s behavior, including once after he cursed at her on-set and made her cry.
But Rauchet sat on those complaints, the lawsuit charges. In fact, after that cursing incident, Rauchet told McHenry to stop complaining and walked out on the conversation. The co-host was “replaceable,” her producer said, and Fox News had never wanted her to begin with.
It was only after McHenry’s fourth complaint, filed through her agent, that she heard back from a member of the network’s human resources department. Investigators asked her what she had done to provoke Tyrus, and eventually concluded that his messages did not constitute sexual harassment, the lawsuit says, because there was no “clear intent to have sex with her.”
Meanwhile, “Un-PC” resumed with McHenry as the sole host, while Tyrus was given a new Fox Nation show, “Nuff Said.” While Tyrus made recurring appearances on popular shows on Fox News, the lawsuit charges, McHenry was “effectively frozen out” from contact with management, with almost no promotional airtime and no spot on the network’s coverage of the MLB All-Star Game, in which she had been promised a role.
The network hired an outside defense firm to look into the text messages, but McHenry said it conducted a “biased, self-serving, sham investigation” that found no evidence of sexual harassment.
“I mean, come on, you didn’t know you were leading him on?” one investigator allegedly asked her, calling the host “really, really pretty.”
When that probe did uncover some evidence, the lawsuit said, it turned out to be fraudulent. Fox lawyers produced a two-page image of text messages between the co-hosts, including a photo of her “with her cleavage and nearly bare breast shown.”
They claimed McHenry, who says the images were doctored, had withheld the messages during the investigation, the lawsuit said, when the images had been falsified, and Tyrus had circulated them around the network instead.
McHenry’s lawyer, Lisa Bloom, spoke out against the network in a statement to USA Today.
“Britt McHenry’s bombshell story should not be happening at Fox News in 2019,” she said. “I am proud to represent her as she demands justice.”
Just last year, McHenry had walked a fine line in on-air comments about other victims. While beginning her stint on Fox, she had decried harassment and assault and demanded respect for other women, but also insisted they can and should “eliminate any excess attention.”
And on a Fox News show in April, just as he was leaving “Un-PC,” Tyrus said viewers should avoid sending text messages to co-workers unless they had a “strong relationship.”
“Something could go wrong,” he said. “You could go from sending a message about lunch to sitting in HR.”