Lurid Harassment Story Triggers Suit by Fox News Host

In this July 22, 2015, file photo, co-host Eric Bolling appears on “The Five” television program, on the Fox News Channel, in New York. Bolling filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit Wednesday against Yashar Ali, a Huffington Post contributing writer, who broke the story that Bolling allegedly sent lewd text messages to colleagues. . (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

MANHATTAN (CN) – A longtime Fox News host sued a reporter for the Huffington Post, claiming a story with 14 unnamed sources that accuses the anchor of sending sexually explicit pictures to co-workers is bunk.

Eric Bolling, best known as the original co-host of “The Five” and later of  “The Specialists,” filed the summons with notice on Aug. 9 in Manhattan Supreme Court against reporter Yashar Ali. Alleging defamation, the news host seeks $50 million in damages.

“This anonymously sourced and uncorroborated story is false, defamatory, and obviously intended to destroy this good man’s career and family,” Bolling’s attorney Michael Bowe said in a statement about the 2-page filing. “We will defend Eric aggressively in court, where actual facts, based on evidence, testimony, and cross-examination, will belie these anonymous accusations.”

Fox News has suspended Bolling and has hired law firm Paul Weiss to investigate the complaints.

Ali tweeted on Wednesday that he stood by his reporting and would protect his sources. “Not going to stop reporting on Eric Bolling or anyone else,” he added. “I’ve had family members killed/jailed in Iran, a lawsuit isn’t going to scare me.”

The reporter’s Aug. 4 article claims that Bolling had texted unsolicited pictures of male genitalia several years ago to at least two women at Fox Business and another at Fox News. The women are former and current Fox employees, according to the article.

Ali’s reporting relied exclusively on anonymous sources. In addition to the three women, the story claimed four others had seen the pictures.

The day after the Huffington Post story ran, a political professor and Fox News guest claimed Bolling had made unsolicited sexual remarks to her.

Caroline Heldman, who is a professor at Occidental College, said in a Facebook post that Bolling had once taken her up to his New York City office to show off some baseball jerseys, then told her it was his favorite place to have sex.

“My only surprise is that it took this long for people to come forward about Bolling’s behavior, which has been wildly inappropriate for years,” Heldman wrote. “I know other women have had similar experiences with Bolling, which means that lots of folks at Fox knew about his behavior well before 2017.”

Heldman claimed she had also been harassed by Bill O’Reilly and consultant Woody Fraser while a guest on the network.

Bolling was a former commodities trader who worked as an on-air personality for CNBC before joining Fox Business when it launched in 2007. He was resigned from a long-term contract by the network in June.

Bolling’s recent book “The Swamp: Washington’s Murky Pool of Corruption and Cronyism and How Trump Can Drain It” is a New York Times best-seller. 

As one of the members of “The Specialists” and a staunch Trump supporter, Bolling had been granted an exclusive interview with the president earlier this year. 

Bolling has made some off-color remarks during his time at the network, including a report about the first woman fighter pilot from the United Arab Emirates who led a bombing of Islamic State group. He had said it should be called “boobs on the ground” instead of “boots on the ground.”

Allegations of sexual harassment by male Fox News employees, including the network’s late former president Roger Ailes and former host Bill O’Reilly, have left Fox News reeling this past year.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Bolling tweeted Wednesday: “I will continue to fight against these false smear attacks! THANK YOU FOR CONTINUED SUPPORT.”

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