A year ago, Sydney Watson was poised to be a new star in the heady world of right-wing media. She was a few months into co-hosting a show on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, an online video network and launching pad for big conservative personalities like Tomi Lahren and Dana Loesch. Watson had signed a multi-year deal with Blaze Media that she claims was worth nearly $1.3 million.
But Watson had a problem: her co-host, pugnacious Blaze pundit Elijah Schaffer. Watson thought Schaffer was setting her up to fail, insisting on “grossly misogynistic” guests and even joking on Twitter about how he wanted her to sleep with talk radio host Sebastian Gorka.
According to Watson, Schaffer was often drunk on set, slugging shots of liquor around recording time. Schaffer was obsessed with talking about “sex, often specifically gay sex,” in Watson’s account, and would talk about it frequently around her and their guests.
After months of complaints from Watson, Blaze CEO Tyler Cardon allegedly came to her with a gripe of his own—could she convince Schaffer to cut down on all the penis talk? As Watson put it, Cardon asked her to get Schaffer to “stop talking about dicks so much.” But in her telling, Watson knew it was pointless: Schaffer would never listen to a woman.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday against The Blaze, Watson says her career was derailed after Blaze Media management ignored her warnings about Schaffer’s sexual harassment. The lawsuit portrays Watson as a woman struggling to make her way in a conservative media company where concerns about harassment were ignored.
Schaffer was ultimately fired from The Blaze in September, after allegedly drunkenly assaulting another Blaze Media host by groping her breasts during a movie premiere. At the time, The Blaze tweeted he had been fired for “violating company policies and standards.”
But Watson’s claims in her lawsuit that executives at The Blaze knew that Schaffer’s problems with female employees went back far earlier.
“The Blaze management was fully aware that they had a problem with Mr. Schaffer, but he was their ‘star,’” the lawsuit reads. “He was abusive and sexist to other women at The Blaze as well.”
Asked for comment, Watson’s attorney Kurt Schlichter, a conservative media personality in his own right, referred The Daily Beast to the complaint.
The Blaze and Schaffer didn’t respond to requests for comment by press time. After publication of this article, The Blaze reached out to note, “The claims alleged in this complaint are false. We look forward to prevailing in this matter, where the plaintiff’s statements, emails, and text messages will show in her own words why this case might generate publicity but will fail on the merits.”
Schaffer made his name on the right covering protests and riots in 2020. Starting in Sept. 2021, Watson and Schaffer co-hosted a talk show for The Blaze called You Are Here from The Blaze’s Texas studios.
Once Schaffer received his co-hosting spot at The Blaze, according to Watson, he insisted on inviting guests like “grossly misogynistic” white nationalist leader Nick Fuentes. In her account, Watson found herself set up as Schaffer’s foil, embarrassed by her co-host and tricked into reading antisemitic messages from Schaffer’s far-right fans aloud on the show.
“It became a running gag for Mr. Schaffer and his audience that some of Mr. Schaffer’s fans would leave superchat comments with coded dog whistles that referenced grossly misogynistic and/or antisemitic comments for Ms. Watson to read with her not knowing what they meant,” the complaint reads.
Watson’s problems with Schaffer escalated in December 2021, when the pair interviewed Jack Murphy, then a sort of would-be guru in the hyper-masculine “manosphere.” Shortly before the interview, though, Murphy had been exposed by online critics for his involvement in unusual sexual practices and his own past adult performances on webcams.
When Watson asked him about that history, she claims, Murphy began to berate her. Rather than defend her, according to the lawsuit, Schaffer tried to cheer up his guest. Watson began to feel she had been turned into “the designated punching bag for the sexist guests and for Mr. Schaffer himself.”
“The idea behind [the show] was never that it was to be a forum for the humiliation and abuse of the female co-host as the male host smirked and egged on this appalling behavior,” the complaint reads.
In her lawsuit, Watson claims Schaffer was frequently drunk during broadcasts.
“It did not help that Mr. Schaffer would get drunk on set, and get guests drunk as well,” the lawsuit reads. “He would do shots of hard liquor before many of the shows. It was impossible to work professionally in an environment where her co-host was drunk and impaired”
The relationship between the hosts broke down, according to Watson, when Schaffer refused to “stop unilaterally booking misogynistic and abusive people” on their show. Watson claims Blaze management ignored her many complaints about Schaffer’s treatment of her, protecting him as a company “star.”
Their fight regularly spilled into the public eye—in April 2022, for example, Schaffer tweeted that he “hope[d]” Watson would sleep with Gorka, a married former Trump White House adviser. In the lawsuit, Watson describes herself as “devastated” by Schaffer’s suggestion.
The Blaze suspended their show in May. According to her lawsuit, the company fired Watson in July after a lawyer working for Watson complained again to the company about Schaffer’s actions.
Still, Schaffer kept criticizing Watson even after their show ended, referencing her in thinly veiled Twitter posts and livestream appearances with other conservative personalities. At a July movie premiere, for example, Watson says that Schaffer made a series of outlandish claims against her to prominent Fox News and InfoWars employees. Schaffer allegedly told the other media figures that Watson was bent on seeing Schaffer divorce his wife, and was blackmailing him about “personal indiscretions” after trying to seduce him.
In her lawsuit, Watson claims management at Blaze Media never took her allegations against Schaffer seriously, only firing him after he allegedly groped another employee.
“The Blaze instead opted to cater to the demands, tantrums, and misbehavior of another young rising star, a male one who—long after Ms. Watson had been terminated for complaining and demanding justice—was finally fired based on allegations that he physically assaulted and manhandled at least one other female The Blaze employee,” the complaint reads.