Ryan Seacrest made his usual appearance on ABC's “Live with Kelly and Ryan” on Tuesday, but stayed silent on the shocking allegations of sexual misconduct by his former stylist, laid out in graphic detail in “Variety” on Monday, even as a fellow ABC star said Seacrest should be ousted from the Oscars.
“Scandal” actress Bellamy Young said the veteran host should “step aside and let someone of equal talent, who is beyond reproach,” handle E!’s red carpet duties at Sunday’s Academy Awards.
“It feels like the rules have changed,” Young told a Variety reporter at an event on Monday night.
“It feels like the rules have changed,” Young (left) told a Variety reporter when asked about Seacrest's Oscar gig. (Reuters)
Yet across the board, ABC brass have stayed silent as its biggest star faces the worst crisis in his career. ABC’s “Good Morning America” did not mention the scandal, while it was heavily covered on rival network’s morning programs. The spotlight on Seacrest is unusually harsh, as next month the star will host the make-or-break reboot of “American Idol” which beleaguered ABC hopes will give it a desperately needed hit.
“This is a major crisis. ABC should have ordered him to go on ‘GMA’ Tuesday morning, live at 7:30, and deny the allegations vociferously,” an ABC insider told Fox News.
ABC declined comment when reached by Fox News.
Seacrest has maintained a stony silence about the allegations since denying the claims in a Feb. 5 guest column in The Hollywood Reporter headlined, “What Happened After I was Wrongly Accused of Harassment.” ABC has not issued a public statement about the allegations.
Suzie Hardy has made graphic allegations against the ABC star.
Instead of discussing the disgusting sex allegations on Tuesday morning, Seacrest and his co-host Kelly Ripa and Seacrest opened “Live” with a lengthy conversation about getting their teeth whitened.
Seacrest said that the doctor who whitened his teeth “looked like McDreamy,” a co-promotional reference to a sexy doctor who used to be on ABC’s “Grey's Anatomy,” before explaining that he has the “pain threshold of a Care Bear” because the procedure was excruciating.
Misconduct claims were first levied against Seacrest last November. NBCUniversal’s E!, where Seacrest was working at the time of the allegations, said it had investigated and found “insufficient evidence to support the claims against Seacrest.” But Monday’s report described in horrifying detail what “Variety” said are allegations of “years of unwanted sexual aggression” by Seacrest against his longtime personal stylist.
In an interview with Variety, Suzie Hardy said she landed her dream job as Seacrest’s personal stylist at E! News in 2007, only to be fired in 2013 after making graphic complaints of harassment to E’s Human Resources department. Hardy accused the ABC star of grinding his erect penis against her while he was only wearing underwear, groping her vagina and slapping her so hard on the bottom that she suffered for hours from a large, visible welt.
“This is a major crisis. ABC should have ordered him to go on ‘GMA’ Tuesday morning, live at 7:30, and deny the allegations vociferously”- ABC insider
ABC does not appear to be looking into the allegations and did not respond when asked if an internal investigation would be launched. An ABC insider confirmed to Fox News that Seacrest will continue to host “Live with Kelly and Ryan” as scheduled and will host “American Idol” starting on March 11.
Media analyst Jeffrey McCall told Fox News that it’s “odd” that ABC is not investigating the allegations and has been “so slow” to respond.
“Of course, ABC shouldn't speak comprehensively until they have a handle on the facts, but silence is not a great strategy either, since that could rhetorically signal there is a there there,” McCall said. “In this era when harassment allegations continue to pop up, all media organizations should be prepared to respond quickly with at least a statement of concern and promise to fully investigate.”
Industry insiders said that ABC’s silence is troubling and the network would benefit from getting out in front of the allegations. Mediaite columnist Joseph Wulfsohn said the silence can’t last forever.
“While they may be able to get away with it for now, they'll certainly be forced to break their silence if his accuser continues to publicly speak out or more accusers come forward,” Wulfsohn told Fox News.
Seacrest, 43, will reportedly make north of “somewhere north of $10 million” for “Idol” alone and is believed to make another $10 million or more for “Live.”
“American Idol” is scheduled to return to television on Sunday, March 11 on ABC. (© 2017 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved. )
“It would also be wise for networks to more fully screen their talent before contracting them for big sums of money. Big media outlets can avoid these embarrassing situations by cleaning up their workplace cultures, but I am not sure they have the will or ability to do it,” McCall said.
As previously reported, Hardy took her complaints directly to E!, which didn’t move forward with any punishment against Seacrest after a third-party investigator deemed there wasn't enough evidence.
While people close to Seacrest think the E! investigation exonerated the ABC star, the allegations could still turn into a significant problem for the network. ABC has made a huge financial gamble on the revamped version of “American Idol,” including a controversial $25 million salary for Katy Perry to serve as a judge of the competition.
The allegations against Seacrest come at the height of the #MeToo movement that has swept the nation since Harvey Weinstein was outed as a sexual predator last year. Seacrest’s lawyer, Andrew Baum, told Fox News that Hardy initially asked for a payout to keep quiet, prompting Seacrest to announce the investigation publicly on his own behalf.
“Scandal” actress Bellamy Young said the veteran host should “step aside." from his Oscars gig. (Reuters)
“It is upsetting to us that Variety is electing to run a ‘story’ about untrue allegations that we were made against my client, after they were told that the accuser threatened to make those false claims against him unless he paid her $15 million. At that time, the claimant threatened to issue a demonstrably false press statement unless she was paid," the statement reads. "Instead, my client proactively and publicly denied the claims and agreed to fully cooperate with E!’s investigation about the matter."
Hardy’s lawyers, on the other hand, have said there's absolutely no evidence to support claims she demanded hush money.
The detailed allegations against Seacrest are the latest problem for ABC, though most of its problems have come from its troubled news division. ABC News faced recent criticism because “The View” host Joy Behar mocked Vice President Mike Pence’s Christian faith. The controversy has resulted in a variety of industry watchdogs suggesting it would be wise for ABC News to divorce itself from the show that typically features four outspoken liberals and a single conservative.
ABC has also dealt with claims that former ABC News star Mark Halperin was a serial sexual harasser while at the network. Halperin’s career fell apart last October when multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct when he was political director at ABC in the 2000s. He had since moved on to MSNBC but the cable news network cut ties with him when the allegations surfaced.
Fox News’ Tyler McCarthy contributed to this report.
Brian Flood covers the media for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter at @briansflood.