Britt McHenry sues Fox News and co-host Tyrus for sexual harassment, retaliation
Murdoch, known by his pro-wrestling name Tyrus, hosted the Fox Nation show "Un-PC" with McHenry from December 2018 to February 2019. In addition to harassment from Murdoch, McHenry claims Fox retaliated against her when she came forward with her accusations.
In a lawsuit filed in New York Tuesday and obtained by USA TODAY, McHenry alleges she was "crudely sexually harassed" by Murdoch through "sexually inappropriate comments to her in person, and also via text message."
When McHenry told the network, Fox "punished the victim and rewarded the harasser" by "stripping her of professional opportunities while simultaneously promoting" Murdoch, the complaint says.
The lawsuit names Fox News Network, Fox Entertainment Group, News Corp., Fox Corp. and Murdoch, among others. McHenry's allegations include gender discrimination and sexual harassment, retaliation, aiding and abetting gender discrimination and retaliation as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress.
McHenry commented on the suit in a statement provided to USA TODAY by her lawyer's media coordinator, Marcelino Valencap.
"The last thing I wanted to do was filed (sic) this lawsuit," she said. "But I had to stand up for what's right for myself and for women."
McHenry's lawyer, Lisa Bloom, also spoke out against the network in a statement provided by Valencap.
“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.”
Fox News, in a company statement, dismissed McHenry's lawsuit and said the company fully investigated her allegations and took appropriate action.
Murdoch's attorney, Tom Clare, said his client denies the allegations in the lawsuit and will pursue defamation counterclaims.
"He looks forward to having a public forum in the court system to clear his name from the smear campaign that has been waged against him in the media," Clare said in a statement provided to USA TODAY.
McHenry alleges Murdoch began sending her sexually explicit text messages in October of 2018. The suit says she "politely replied to his grossly sexualized texts with friendly but non-sexual responses" out of fear of Murdoch's "volatile tendencies" and of hurting her show.
When McHenry confided in Jennifer Rauchet, the show's executive producer, about the harassment, she says her complaints were ignored.
The suit says McHenry hit her "breaking point" in April, when Murdoch "yelled" and "cursed at her" in front of their show's guest. When McHenry went to Rauchet to make a third report, the producer "responded by telling her not to complain -- that she was 'replaceable,' and that Fox News never wanted her."
"When Ms. McHenry tried to continue the conversation, Ms. Rauchet physically walked out on her," the suit adds.
Furthermore, McHenry alleges Fox retaliated against her for speaking out against Murdoch. Her lawsuit says she's had fewer professional opportunities and been "effectively frozen out by Fox News management." Meanwhile, Murdoch has appeared on Fox News "more than fifty times" and gotten his own show since her complaint.
McHenry also alleges Fox conducted a "sham investigation" into her claims by hiring the defense firm DLA Piper for the investigation. According to the lawsuit, Fox also hired this firm "to represent them and negotiate the departure of Ms. McHenry."
"As a result of this biased, self-serving, sham investigation, DLA Piper found that there was no evidence of sexual harassment," the lawsuit says.
After McHenry "requested a more thorough investigation be conducted by an actual impartial investigator," the new investigators Fox hired allegedly "victim-blamed and argued" with McHenry.
"One of the investigators told Ms. McHenry (twice) she was 'really pretty' and asked her, 'I mean, come on, you didn’t know you were leading him on?' " the complaint says.
In October of 2019, the lawsuit claims a Fox News counsel produced texts McHenry allegedly sent to Murdoch with "her cleavage and nearly bare breast shown." The suit claims these "fraudulent" photos were doctored by Murdoch "to make it appear she was being sexually explicit with him."
"A simple Google Image search shows that the first image was taken from a website and the woman depicted was not Ms. McHenry," the lawsuit says. Additionally, it claims Murdoch "had also allegedly been circulating these fraudulent text messages to others at Fox News, thereby irreparably harming Ms. McHenry’s professional reputation."
According to the suit, McHenry offered to have her cell phone examined by a forensic expert to prove she didn't send those texts, while Murdoch "has refused to submit to a forensic examination of his phone."