WASHINGTON (CN) — Ben Carson famously equated homosexuality with bestiality, but the conservative radio host who advised him preyed on a young male employee for sex, the worker claims in a federal complaint.
Charlton Woodyard says he was 26 and selling men’s suits at a Jos. A Bank in D.C. when he first met Armstrong Williams, a prominent black conservative radio host with Sirius XM.
It was April 2013, just a month after Ben Carson retired as a neurosurgeon and catapulted to conservative fame.
Williams was 54 at the time and asked to be Woodyard’s mentor, according to Woodyard’s July 13 complaint.
In addition to “star power,” Woodyward says he was “lured into his [Williams’] orbit with the promise of assistance in realizing his dreams of financial success in either the fashion or media realms.”
The full-time, assistant-like position came with little compensation, but Woodyward says he was “rewarded … with introductions to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, U.S. Senator Tim Scott, and presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson.”
“Mr. Williams served as an advisor to Dr. Carson’s presidential campaign, and he made Mr. Woodyard feel like an insider by sharing his views about Dr. Carson’s deficiencies as a candidate,” the complaint states. “Mr. Williams also took Mr. Woodyard as his guest to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in both 2014 and 2015. Mr. Williams used this relationship to control Mr. Woodyard financially, professionally, and emotionally, and ultimately abused his power to attempt to exploit him sexually.”
A spokesman for Williams’ company, Howard Stirk Holdings II, brushed the lawsuit off as the “very unfortunate” allegations of a “disgruntled” fired employee.
Woodyward meanwhile says unwelcome sexual attention escalated quickly during his mentorship.
Williams would tell Woodyard that he was his “favorite,” according to the complaint, he’d hug him tightly enough to press his penis against the young man, and he’d expose himself to Woodyard naked in the steam room at his gym.
“One night in the summer of 2013 when Mr. Woodyard stayed overnight in Mr. Williams’s guest bedroom, Mr. Woodyard woke up to the sound of someone trying to open the door to his bedroom,” the complaint states. “Out of habit, Mr. Woodyard had locked the door to the room. Mr. Williams was the only other person in the house that night.”
Trying to keep things professional, Woodyard says he let Williams take him to Italy to learn about men’s fashion.
Woodyard allegedly suffered through romantic dinners, holding hands at the Sistine Chapel and one night at a hotel room “mistakenly” reserved with a single king-sized bed for the two of them.
Though concerned, Woodyward notes that “he had heard Mr. Williams on his radio show and in private make disparaging and homophobic comments about gay people and the LGBTQ community.”
“Mr. Woodyard believed that Mr. Williams’s views, and general conservative politics, belied any possibility that Mr. Williams had any sexual interest in him,” the complaint states.
Williams helped Woodyard get a job at the Washington Times in 2014, according to the complaint, but then got him “fired” to exert more control.
In 2015, the complaint states, Williams found an opening in his company, Howard Stirk Holdings II, for Woodyward.
Williams allegedly continued to use work as excuse to make the relationship sexual.
Woodyard says Williams would even turn it around on him if he tried to change the subject. Once, while meeting Williams in his bedroom “to discuss business,” Woodyard noted that he had never been to the basement of Williams’ house.
“Mr. Williams responded by saying ‘I’ve never been in your basement’ — a crude reference to anal sex,” the complaint states.
But Woodyard says Williams quickly abandoned any pretenses.
Claiming that Woodyard had gotten “so hard” when they hugged in the past, according to the complaint, Williams said “that he was attracted to him, and insisted that the attraction was mutual.”
Woodyard says he was “shaken and humiliated” by the “sexual assault” that occurred next.
Williams “put his arms around Mr. Woodyard, and tried to force him to lie on top of him with Mr. Williams’s penis pressed against his,” the complaint states. “For several minutes Mr. Williams asked Mr. Woodyard if he were bothered by what was happening, and Mr. Woodyard answered unequivocally that Mr. Williams’s sexual contact ‘definitely bothered’ him.
“Undeterred, Mr. Williams grabbed Mr. Woodyard’s penis through his pants.”
Woodyard says he pushed the hand away and tried to change the subject, but that “Williams continued to moan and demonstrate his sexual arousal while making comments about how hard Mr. Woodyard’s penis was.”
Shortly after Woodyard rebuffed Williams’ advances in November 2015, Williams moved Woodyard’s job to Alabama, the complaint states.
Woodyard says he put the company on notice in April 2016 that Williams had sexually harassed him. Woodyard was allegedly fired two weeks later.
“Mr. Williams’s retaliation against Mr. Woodyard has left him stranded in a city where he knows almost no one,” the complaint states. “He signed a one-year apartment lease that he cannot afford to break, and he now has no job and few employment prospects. Mr. Williams’s earlier emotional and psychological abuse, culminating with his sexually predatory behavior on the night of November 1, 2015, have left Mr. Woodyard scarred and suffering from depression.”
Shermichael Singleton, the spokesman at Howard Stirk Holdings, denied that there was a pretext for Woodyard’s firing, saying the man “simply did not meet certain metrics and objectives.”
Singleton also emphasized that the decision to fire Woodyard came from Woodyard’s supervisor, not Williams, after several attempts to “oversee [Woodyard’s] performance, on several occasions.”
“We did attempt to offer him a very nice severance package,” Singleton said over the phone. “He originally accepted it and then went back on it. And now we are where we are.”
Alleging sexual harassment and labor-law violations, among other claims, Woodyard seeks punitive damages. He is represented by Debra Katz with Katz, Marshall & Banks.
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