Popular television host Ryan Seacrest is being accused of abuse and sexual assault by his former personal stylist for E! News.
In 2006, stylist Suzie Hardy got a job as Ryan Secrest’s personal stylist for E! News. For the single mother with a preschool-age daughter, it was the dream job because it offered good pay and gave her a flexible schedule that allowed her pick up her child from school most workdays. However, she claims the job soon turned into a nightmare as Seacrest would sexually harass her every chance he got. This continued until she reported to human resources in 2013 and her employment was immediately terminated.
According to a November letter from Hardy’s attorney addressed to cable channel E!, its corporate parent NBCUniveral, and Seacrest, Hardy’s job became an ordeal as Seacrest subjected her to years of unwanted sexual aggression. The letter accused him of grinding his erect penis against Hardy while clad only in his underwear, groping her vagina, and at one point slapping her buttock so hard that it left a large welt still visible hours later. She took a picture of the injury and showed it to E! during an investigation. She also showed the photo to Variety.
In one incident which happened in 2008, Hardy says Seacrest groped her crotch. A former co-worker of Hardy’s also corroborated this story to Variety. Hardy also alleges that in 2009, she was helping Seacrest get ready for the Oscars at the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles when he flung her on to the bed, “and climbed on top of her, rubbing his erection against her — stopping only when Hardy’s co-worker began yelling at him.”
The most “egregious” incident allegedly happened in 2010. Hardy was, at the time, dating a high-powered entertainment attorney, toward the beginning of a relationship that would last three years. According to the letter and interviews with Hardy, as she stood in front of Seacrest, tying his tie, Seacrest inquired about the relationship, asking, ‘Have you f–ked him yet?’ When Hardy responded by telling Seacrest not to ask her such questions, Seacrest allegedly reached down and tightly grabbed her vagina. She retreated in tears to a bathroom, where, she said, a production assistant approached her a few minutes later offering to walk her to human resources, but warning her that she would probably be fired if she reported Seacrest’s behavior. Hardy declined the offer.
Hardy claimed that she endured the abuse for years because she needed the job to provide for her daughter and she feared she would lose it if she spoke out. She said she eventually spoke to E!’s human resources department in 2013, after it approached her about her relationship with Seacrest. Hardy says, at that time, she described Seacrest’s inappropriate groping and behavior. Soon after that, Hardy says, the E! ended her employment at the network. She was scarred as a result of the years of abuse.
She told Variety: “As proud as I am and as strong as a woman as I am, as smart as I am and as much work as I’ve done with therapists, it really affected me.”
The letter from Hardy’s attorney asked Seacrest and E! to “come up with a plan to address the treatment of all women at the networks and to take responsibility for the wrongful treatment” of Hardy, and threatened “more formal action” if the request were ignored.
Seacrest denied Hardy’s claims and on Nov. 17, Seacrest took the allegation public, announcing in a statement that E! was investigating a misconduct complaint against him made by “someone that worked as a wardrobe stylist for me nearly a decade ago at E! News.” He referred to her claims as “reckless allegations.”
NBCUniversal hired an outside counsel to conduct the investigation and three months later, E! issued a statement saying that its investigation had concluded and found “insufficient evidence to support the claims against Seacrest.”
Hardy was dejected by the conclusion of the investigation. She said the investigator was taking sides with Seacrest and refused to interview four witnesses she had referred him to who could corroborate elements of her story.
She told Variety: “Total exasperation was my definite feeling when I heard about it. I felt like by the third interview, it was obvious the investigator was whitewashing it for Seacrest’s side.”
But an E! spokesperson told Variety that the investigation was thorough and the conclusion legitimate.
The spokesperson said: “E!’s investigation was extremely comprehensive and thorough. Over the course of a two month process, our outside counsel interviewed more than two dozen people regarding the allegations, including multiple separate meetings with the claimant. The investigator is an attorney with nearly 20 years experience and is highly regarded professionally. Any claims that question the legitimacy of this investigation are completely baseless.”
Seacrest has consistently denied Hardy’s allegations, even before her claims were detailed publicly.
In his February op-ed, referring to the #MeToo movement, he wrote: “I absolutely want to be part of the change, the progress, that is coming. I did not want to be a postscript of evidence of its cause.”
He added: “After sharing the letter with the network, I publicly denied the claims against me, and agreed to participate in any inquiry the network deemed appropriate. On Feb. 1, I received notice that an independent third party found the claims to be unsubstantiated and that there was no evidence of wrongdoing on my part.”
Seacrest’s attorney, Andrew Baum, told Variety: “It is upsetting to us that Variety is electing to run a ‘story’ about untrue allegations that 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. Instead, my client proactively and publicly denied the claims and agreed to fully cooperate with E!’s investigation about the matter.”