Fox Off the Hook, but Host May Be Liable for Harassment

TV news personality Britt McHenry at the NFL Lions v. Redskins game on Aug. 20, 2015. (By Keith Allison, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wiki Commons via Courthouse News)

MANHATTAN (CN) — A federal judge advanced sexual harassment claims Friday against a Fox News personality accused of telling his then co-host that any back talk would be met with dick pics. 

Britt McHenry, a former model and soccer player turned sports reporter, filed a civil complaint one year ago against George “Tyrus” Murdoch, a professional wrestler with whom she co-hosted the talk show “Un-PC” on the Fox Nation streaming service from September 2018 to April 2019.  

In addition to the text message where Murdoch threatened to send her pictures of his penis, McHenry quoted Murdoch as raving about photographs of her that he found sexy and worthy of impregnating.

U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer denied Murdoch’s motion to dismiss Friday morning.

“Murdoch argues that these allegations fall short of alleging harassment because McHenry does not allege any actual ‘sexual advances’ or that he was ‘propositioning Ms. McHenry or demonstrating a romantic interest in her’,” Engelmayer wrote. “That characterization of the factual allegations against Murdoch is incorrect.”

Murdoch, who is represented by the Alexandria, Virginia, law firm Clare Locke, also insisted that McHenry was a willing participant in the racy chats. Though he emphasized that such conversations occurred outside of work, he said McHenry’s primary grievance is with Fox News and not him. 

In his ruling Friday, Engelmayer dismissed the claims against Fox and two network officials, John Finley, a vice president, and Monika Mekeel, who works in Fox human resources.

The judge said McHenry adequately alleged a retaliation claim against Jennifer Rauchet, an executive producer who allegedly told McHenry she was “replaceable” when she complained about Murdoch’s behavior.

Rauchet also produces the Fox News Channel program “Watters’ World,” which stopped booking McHenry as a guest following her complaints. Meanwhile, Murdoch was given his own show, “Nuff Said,” last year.

McHenry’s attorney, Arick Fudali from the Bloom Firm, called Friday’s ruling a “victory for Ms. McHenry and a milestone in her pursuit of justice.” 

“We look forward to now having the opportunity to prove our claims of sexual harassment and retaliation against Fox News, Mr. Murdoch, and Ms. Rauchet in court,” Fudali said.  

Represented by New York law firm Jones Day, attorneys for Fox say the company conducted investigations into McHenry’s claims that found that “mutual inappropriate texting” texts between her and Murdoch were consensual. 

Fox News maintains that there is no liability on the company because it responded appropriately based on the findings of its independent investigations. 

“We are pleased that the court dismissed all of McHenry’s baseless claims against Fox Corporation, Monica Mekeel and John Finley, as well as the harassment claims against Jennifer Rauchet,” the company said in a statement. “Once the facts of the case have been presented, we are confident Fox News and Rauchet will prevail on McHenry’s remaining claims, which are equally without merit.”

This story is developing…

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