In the midst of the then-growing allegations of sexual assault and harassment being levied against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, news broke that Live with Kelly and Ryan co-host Ryan Seacrest was facing his own allegations of misconduct. The American Idol master of ceremonies immediately issued a release apologizing to his then-unnamed accuser for doing anything that “made her feel anything but respected,” and “[disputing] these reckless allegations.” Seacrest also agreed to “cooperate with any corporate inquiries that may result,” including an internal investigation announced by the E! network.
Three months later, Seacrest’s accuser, Suzie Hardy, has opened up to Variety to detail her allegations. The trade publication also obtained a copy of the letter her attorney initially sent to E! News, where she was once employed as the former network anchor’s personal stylist, and conducted several interviews with her. Hardy, a single mother, landed the job in 2006, which “provided good pay and a schedule that would allow her to pick up her child from school most workdays.” But the otherwise perfect gig “became an ordeal” in the years that followed:
Seacrest subjected Hardy to years of unwanted sexual aggression — grinding his erect penis against her 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.
Hardy claimed that she endured the abuse for years out of concern over being able to provide for her daughter, and that the situation only ended in 2013, when, after reporting Seacrest’s actions to human-resources executives, her employment ended.
Speaking with Variety, Hardy said, “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.” However, E!’s internal investigation found “insufficient evidence to support the claims against Seacrest.” The former E! News employee accused the network’s investigator of “whitewashing it for Seacrest’s side” and claimed the four witnesses she indicated could corroborate her story were never contacted.
A spokesperson for the cable channel told Variety, “E!’s investigation was extremely comprehensive and thorough.” Meanwhile Seacrest himself did not respond directly to Hardy’s claims or the magazine’s story, but his lawyer, Andrew Baum did. “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,” he said. “My client proactively and publicly denied the claims and agreed to fully cooperate with E!’s investigation about the matter.”
UPDATE 2/27/18 – 6:00pm EST: Via Buzzfeed News, Seacrest has issued a statement to deny the claims against him. He also accuses his accuser of offering “on multiple occasions” to halt her allegations if he paid her millions of dollars.