Ryan Seacrest Exposes the Limitations of #MeToo
The powerful TV host and superproducer has not only emerged relatively unscathed from sexual-misconduct allegations, but ratings for his daytime talk show are up.
In January, Liam Neeson shared his thoughts on #MeToo with Ryan Tubridy, host of Irish network RTE’s The Late Late Show.
“There is a bit of a witch hunt happening,” the Taken star said, before speaking in defense of Dustin Hoffman, who had recently been accused of sexually harassing an intern during the production of 1985’s Death of a Salesman. “When you’re doing a play, and you’re with your family—other actors, technicians—you do silly things... it’s childhood stuff what he was doing.”
Five more women have since come forward alleging various degrees of sexual misconduct by Hoffman, including one of his daughter’s high-school friends, who claims the actor exposed himself to her in a hotel room when she was a minor.
Neeson, of course, wasn’t the only actor who believed that many “innocent” men would be swept up in the Time’s Up reckoning.
But looking at Ryan Seacrest’s past week, it’s become evident that the TV host has emerged relatively unscathed from his own #MeToo moment.
Seacrest has been accused of sexual abuse by his former E! stylist Suzie Hardy, as reported by Variety. According to Hardy, Seacrest grinded his erect penis against her while in his underwear, groped her vagina, and slapped her butt, among other incidents. The abuse, she claims, lasted for years until she was fired in 2013 for allegedly reporting Seacrest to E!’s human-resources department. Seacrest has denied the allegations.
After Hardy’s allegations resurfaced, E! launched a two-month-long internal investigation, interviewing over two dozen witnesses—including Seacrest and Hardy—but concluded that there was “insufficient evidence to substantiate allegations against Seacrest.”
Foul has been cried of course, with some feeling as though the ruling wasn’t impartial given Seacrest’s clout with the network (he is the producer of a number of its hit shows, including the Kardashians and E! News’ red-carpet coverage). And it’s important to note that in the wake of this controversy, Seacrest’s career has remained steady.
As he prepared to defiantly host the red carpet at the Oscars, amid calls for him to step down and give #MeToo and Time’s Up its moment, Seacrest enlisted his Live With Kelly and Ryan co-host Kelly Ripa to aid him. Live on air, she extolled the virtues of her friend and colleague, telling him, “I just want you to know that you are a privilege to work with, and I adore you. And I am speaking on behalf of all us here. I know what an easy, professional, great person you are and I feel very, very lucky to work with you each and every day. We all do.”
According to a Daily Beast source, “[Ripa] thought about it, and she is someone who forms her opinions based on her life experiences, and her experience with individuals. And in this case, Ryan has been one of the most trustworthy, conscientious, and best people she has ever worked with. And she feels quite comfortable and quite confident being supportive.” Seacrest even reportedly cried after she defended him.
And thus Seacrest proceeded to hit the red carpet, where it was apparent that few were interested in talking to the embattled host. Only a handful of people stopped by—including Taraji P. Henson to maybe or maybe not throw some shade at him—and most of E!’s red-carpet coverage consisted of Giuliana Rancic across the street at the Roosevelt Hotel blathering on about nothing of great importance in order to cover for the fact that Seacrest was bombing. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “E!’s Live From the Red Carpet coverage hemorrhaged 35 percent of its 2017 audience Sunday night—well outpacing the losses of ABC’s fatigued Oscar telecast. E!’s coverage only pulled in 1.3 million viewers, losing even more adults 18-49—with the rating falling 43 percent to just a 0.4 rating in the key demo.”
You might think that would lend credence to the “witch hunt” mythos: Actors burned Seacrest on the carpet and he paid for it in ratings.
Except, not really.
The next day, the ratings for Live With Kelly and Ryan were high. In fact, it was the most-watched episode since he joined Ripa on the show in May. And starting March 11, Seacrest will be back hosting the reboot of American Idol on ABC.
The crew of that show has vehemently defended him, too. Longtime American Idol producer Debbie Williams told US Weekly, “I think that this accuser is on the take. I am a woman’s advocate, I’m happy that things are changing. This movement for change is long overdue but there are those who want to use a movement to take advantage for financial purposes. That is what this is about in my estimation… I am very much a woman’s rights activist. I march, and I help with these causes, so for me to speak out about this is because I know this is true BS.”
Seacrest has emerged from the flames like Daenerys and his star seems to be shining even brighter now. Can you honestly call it a “witch hunt” when no one’s career actually burns at the stake?