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Ryan Seacrest’s Oscars red carpet pretended that sexual harassment doesn’t exist

Ryan Seacrest hosted the Oscars red carpet show for E! amid accusations of sexual misconduct. (Video: Nicki DeMarco, Erin Patrick O'Connor/The Washington Post)

Ryan Seacrest’s reign as the prince of the red carpet may have ended tonight. Usually the E! host is a mandatory stop for Oscar guests on their way into the awards ceremony. Not this year. Perhaps you could say, echoing the pins that many guests were wearing, that his time is up.

A recap: On Feb. 26, Variety published accusations from one of Seacrest’s former stylists, Suzie Hardy, who alleged that the host sexually harassed and abused her after she started working for him in 2007. Hardy said that Seacrest rubbed his genitalia against her and slapped her buttock hard enough to leave a welt. When she reported him to human resources in 2013, Hardy told Variety, she was let go.

Seacrest has called the accusations “gut-wrenching” and has denied them. E! launched an independent investigation in November after the complaint was first reported and concluded in February that there was “insufficient evidence” to support the allegations and that therefore they “could not be substantiated.”

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Clearly, this would not be a good look for E! at the first Oscars of the #MeToo era, but the network forged ahead with Seacrest in his usual red carpet post. Publicists were said to be advising their clients to avoid him on the red carpet, lest they end up in an uncomfortable position. And E! was reportedly  planning to air Seacrest’s interviews on a 30-second delay; the network had planned to cut to fellow host Giuliana Rancic if any of his interviews started to go off the rails.

“As always, we tape multiple sources of content simultaneously to deliver the best possible show, and there are often brief delays between interviews,” an E! spokesperson told Deadline.

That didn’t prevent things from getting awkward, though. Here are some takeaways from E! and Seacrest’s night on the red carpet:

E! seemed to be pretending that sexual harassment doesn’t exist.

Obviously the network wasn’t going to bring up Seacrest’s allegations, but it seemed to be studiously avoiding mentioning any of the other high-profile Hollywood types who have been accused of sexual harassment.

“What are some of the big stories coming out of the Oscars that viewers should know about?” asked E! host Rancic of her co-host Kristin Dos Santos. Not the Time’s Up movement, not the Harvey Weinstein scandal that shook the entire industry and dominated the news for months — no, the major story, according to Dos Santos, was merely the race for best picture.

Later, Dos Santos mentioned that there has been “so much talk” about the women’s movement this year — but that talk must have materialized out of the mist, because she pointedly avoided discussing why. Harvey Weinstein’s name never crossed her lips. She rattled off some stats about women in Hollywood: “Only 4 percent of women are directors. … I find those stats really alarming,” she said.

Later, Seacrest interviewed Christopher Plummer about how he had to quickly step in and shoot “All the Money in the World.” He didn’t mention that Plummer had to step in because Kevin Spacey, freshly accused of sexual assault, had to be erased from the movie.  Plummer didn’t mention it either: “In the theater, disaster happens all the time,” he said. “I love risk. We all do.”

The Oscars showed progress, but women were still punchlines

Seacrest’s colleagues were conspicuously boosting him up. 

One of the first women whom Seacrest interviewed on the red carpet was his “Live! With Kelly and Ryan” co-star, Kelly Ripa, who had already defended him publicly on the show. “I just want you to know that you are a privilege to work with, and I adore you, and I’m speaking on behalf of all of us here,” she said then. “I know what an easy, professional, great person you are, and I feel very, very lucky to work with you each and every day.”

At the Oscars, she popped in again for some cheerleading. “You’re doing a great job,” Ripa told Seacrest, and invited him backstage for some tequila. Rancic seemed overly complimentary, as well.

“Thank you, Ryan, great interview by the way,” she said, about an interview so unremarkable we can’t even remember who it was with.

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Seacrest interviewed a lot of men.

Gael García Bernal. Christopher Plummer. Donald Sutherland. Andy Serkis. Common. Miguel. Bradley Whitford, who was wearing a Time’s Up pin. Richard Jenkins, who was, too. Seacrest exchanged pleasantries with women, too  — including Whoopi Goldberg and Rita Moreno — but men seemed to be more willing to talk to Seacrest than women were.

Most of the big stars passed him by. 

The first nominee Seacrest interviewed was Diane Warren. Why her? She’s a nominee for original song (“Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall”), and she rocked her studded, pointy-shouldered jacket, but viewers could be forgiven for wondering who she was. The biggest stars Seacrest did manage to land were Allison Janney, Mary J. Blige and Tiffany Haddish.

Meanwhile, over on ABC, hosts were interviewing some of the night’s biggest names, including Daniel Kaluuya, Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Timothee Chalamet, Saoirse Ronan, Greta Gerwig and Kumail Nanjiani. And, in a powerful moment, Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd, who were harassed by Weinstein, spoke about the progress of Time’s Up. “This movement isn’t stopping,” Sorvino said.

Taraji P. Henson delivered what some people felt was subtle shade. 

“You know what? The universe has a way of taking care of the good people. You know what I mean?” said the star of last year’s “Hidden Figures.” She touched Seacrest’s chin. It was in reference to her friend Mary J. Blige, whom she was scheduled to introduce during the show, but to many viewers it seemed … awfully pointed.

Was he shook? Seacrest, the consummate professional, didn’t show it. “I agree,” he said. Later, Henson told him it was “always good to see you” and gave him a hug.

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