Fox News can’t get a break. Over the weekend, a third sexual scandal hit the network, as a former guest accused host Sean Hannity of propositioning her and deciding to cut her after she said no.
This follows the resignation of former CEO Roger Ailes last summer and the network’s decision earlier this month to separate from Bill O’Reilly. But the case involving Sean Hannity is much more tenuous than either of those previous two.
Here are five things to know about this latest scandal.
1. The allegations.
In a Friday radio interview with Pat Campbell, conservative commentator Debbie Schlussel said that Hannity invited her to his hotel room after an event at a Detroit bookstore, The Hill reported. “He had some event at a bookstore where he signed his book for people standing in line. He asked me to come meet him at this book signing,” Schlussel recalled.
“So I met him there and it was very awkward. He had me stand up there with him while he signed books and I felt very weird. These people don’t know me and they didn’t come for me to sign their books. So then I left to get ready for the show and he said, ‘Why don’t you come back with me to my hotel?’ and I said, ‘No, I have to get ready for the show,'” she added.
She did not provide a date for the alleged conversation, but she described another alleged incident of Hannity propositioning her after one of his programs. She turned that one down as well. “After that, I wasn’t booked on his show again. And he called me and yelled at me,” Schlussel alleged. “I got a very weird feeling about the whole thing, and I kind of knew I wouldn’t be back on his show.”
2. Hannity’s response — a lawsuit.
“LET ME BE CLEAR — THE COMMENTS ABOUT ME ON A RADIO SHOW THIS WEEK by this individual are 100% false and a complete fabrication,” Hannity declared in an official statement. He called Schlussel “a serial harasser who has been lying about me for well over a decade.”
“The individual has a history of making provably false statements against me in an effort to slander, smear and besmirch my reputation,” the Fox host added. “The individual has not just slandered me over the years but many people who this individual disagrees with.”
Hannity drew a line in the sand. “My patience with this individual is over. I have retained a team of some of the finest and toughest lawyers in the country who are now in the process of laying out the legal course of action we will be taking against this individual,” he said.
“In this fiercely divided & vindictive political climate, I will no longer allow slander and lies about me to go unchallenged, as I see a coordinated effort afoot to now silence those with conservative views,” he concluded, possibly referring to the alleged campaign against O’Reilly.
3. Schlussel’s history with Hannity.
As TheBlaze’s Mike Opelka reported, this is not the first time Schlussel has gone after the Fox host. In 2010, the blogger claimed Hannity and the Freedom Alliance, a nonprofit raising money for wounded veterans, were barely sending any of the money raised to veterans or their families.
She also alleged that Hannity was wasting the charity’s money by demanding expensive private jet travel service. Freedom Alliance released a detailed statement addressing each accusation, the very day of Schlussel’s attacks.
Unlike Bill O’Reilly, who reportedly paid $13 million to settle five separate sexual harassment lawsuits, Hannity does not have such a history and seems confident enough to take Schlussel to court.
4. Schlussel’s response.
In an interview with Law Newz Monday, Schlussel clarified that she does not believe what happened between her and Hannity was legally sexual assault. “I would never accuse him of that,” she said. “Sexual harassment has a special meaning under the law, and I would never accuse him of that.”
The commentator emphasized that while she went on Hannity’s show after the incident, she was “banned from Fox News” afterward.
She specifically responded to Hannity’s legal threats, saying they were “laughable” and that she is contemplating a countersuit for him calling her a “serial harasser.”
“It’s defamatory,” Schlussel told Law Newz. “Everything I said was true, and truth is an absolute bar to defamation. He on the other hand has a murky record on truth.”
5. Tomi Lahren chimed in.
Conservative commentator Tomi Lahren defended Hannity, saying he always treated her well. “Sean Hannity has always treated me with nothing but respect and professionalism,” she wrote on Twitter. “These accusations read like utter bullsh*t to me.”
Sean Hannity has always treated me with nothing but respect and professionalism. These accusations read like utter bullshit to me.
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) April 24, 2017
Following Schlussel’s interview with Law Newz, Hannity noted, “Already the story changes.”
Ben Shapiro agreed, tweeting, “Well that was fast.”
Well that was fast https://t.co/RN2aXMj3Vw
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) April 24, 2017
David Weissman, a Jewish U.S. Army veteran, said Schlussel owed Hannity an apology.
I would like to say something to you @DebbieSchlussel. I am also a conservative Jew, how ever. I think you owe Sean Hannity an apology.
— David Weissman (@davidmweissman) April 24, 2017
What do you think? Did Schlussel go too far? Or did Hannity? Do either of them have a real lawsuit on their hands?