A very dubious claim of sexual harassment against Tucker Carlson

Cathy Areu, a liberal who used to provide comic relief on Tucker Carlson’s show, has accused the Fox News host of sexual harassment. In a lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York, Areu claims that after her final 2018 appearance on Carlson’s show in December of that year, one of his producers or writers told her that Carlson wanted her to stay until the very end of the show to chat with him. After the show, Carlson allegedly told her he would only be attending that night’s office Christmas party for about ten minutes. He added that he was alone in New York City, and would be staying in his hotel room without his wife or kids.

Areu infers that Carlson “was probing to see whether [she] was interested in a sexual relationship.” Areu did not go to Carlson’s hotel room (nor, according to her account did he ask her to).

Areu rounds out her allegations against Carlson by complaining that she only featured on his show three times in 2019 and not at all in 2020. This, she wants the court to believe, was retaliation for not taking Carlson up on his invitation (non-invitation, actually) to his hotel room in December 2018.

There two major problems with Areu’s allegations. First, as set forth in this report from The Spectator, they appear to be inconsistent with certain facts. Second, even if true, they don’t state a claim for unlawful conduct.

At the factual level, Areu’s only appearance on Carlson’s show in December occurred on December 28, several days after Christmas, when the Mark Steyn hosted the program. Fox News’ 2018 Christmas party occurred on December 10. Areu wasn’t on Carlson’s show that night and Carlson was in Washington, not New York.

Addressing this problem, Areu’s attorney told The Spectator that the alleged incident took place on November 30. Carlson did have a small Christmas party for his staff that evening. However, his wife reportedly attended the party. If true, this fact cannot readily be reconciled with Areu’s claim that Carlson said he would be alone that evening.

It’s even more difficult, I think, to reconcile Areu’s claim that Carlson said he would be at the Christmas party for only ten minutes with the fact that Carlson was hosting the party for his small staff. Reportedly, Carlson attended the entire party, as one would expect him to.

Finally, Areu’s claim that she appeared on Carlson’s show only three times in 2019 appears to be false. A review of Grabien shows that Areu appeared on the program at least five times in 2019: March 1, March 21, May 24, August 20, and November 6.

The other problem with Areu’s claim is that it doesn’t describe sexual harassment. It’s not sexual harassment to tell an employee (or a non-employee like Areu) that one is alone in a city and will be alone in one’s hotel room. Nor, even if Carlson had asked Areu to come to his room, would this be unlawful, unless he conditioned some employment benefit on her willingness to comply.

Areu doesn’t allege that Carlson told her he would reward or punish her based on whether she came to his room (which he didn’t even ask her to do). She does say she appeared less often on his show after December. However, she continued to appear in 2019. If Carlson had wanted to punish her, she wouldn’t have appeared at all. Areu had no God-given right to appear more than three (or five) times per year on Carlson’s show.

Nor is there is a reason to link any diminution of appearances by Areu to her not coming to Carlson’s hotel room. If the two things were linked, Carlson likely would have stated the connection at the time he allegedly told her he was alone in New York, when it might have had the potential to persuade.

I was always puzzled by Areu’s appearances on a serious news show. Her persona was that of a liberal airhead. I understood that, during this time period, part of Carlson’s schtick was to have liberals come on and be made by the host to look foolish. However, Areu looked foolish without any effort by Carlson. She provided little more than comic relief.

With the events of late 2019 and 2020 — impeachment, pandemic, economic meltdown, crime waves, and anarchy in some precincts — Carlson has moved away from having fun with liberal guests. He’s more consistently serious and, indeed, grim these days. There’s no more room for Areu’s act. Thus, it’s not surprising that she no longer appears.

Areu’s complaint also contains an allegation of harassment by Sean Hannity. Areu claims that Hannity once threw a $100 bill on his desk and asked which man in the room would take Areu out for drinks. Allegedly, Hannity repeatedly asked, “Who wants to take her on a date?”

According to Areu’s complaint, there were no takers. Thereafter, she alleges, she “was hardly ever, if ever at all, invited back to appear on [Hannity’s show].” (Shouldn’t Areu and/or her lawyer know whether she appeared at all on Hannity’s show after this alleged incident?) In fact, she appeared on his show less than a month later.

If Areu’s allegations against Hannity are true, they describe boorish behavior, but not actionable sexual harassment. One alleged instance of such teasing isn’t enough to state a claim.

Rewarding going on a date (or punishing refusal to do so) would be legally problematic. But Areu’s suggestion that this happened to her is incoherent. It was the males on Hannity’s staff who, allegedly, declined to take up the host’s offer, not Areu. Apparently, she just sat there.

Moreover, as with the allegations against Carlson, Areu doesn’t claim that Hannity offered any benefit or threatened any punishment when he tried to find her a date. In fact, she appeared on his show not long after the alleged incident.

I’ll say this for Areu’s complaint against Carlson and Hannity. It may be inconsistent with the facts, but it’s consistent with the ditz persona she used to display on Fox News.

I should add that the complaint filed on behalf of Areu and Jennifer Eckhart, a former Fox News employee, contains very serious allegations against former Fox News reporter Ed Henry. These allegations are beyond the scope of what already is a very long post.

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