Former Fox News anchor Ed Henry is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two women, including one whose complaints got him terminated in July for alleged sexual misconduct. He argues her claims he raped her are "malicious and defamatory."
Henry's team of lawyers, led by Catherine Foti, filed two motions late Monday, the deadline to respond to a lawsuit alleging a litany of sexual misconduct against Henry and several other Fox anchors. The lawsuit also targeted Fox News arguing it knew about the conduct and did nothing.
Fox News rejected the lawsuit at the time in a statement to USA TODAY, calling it "patently frivolous and utterly devoid of any merit," while pointing to Henry's firing as the "appropriate" response to accusations against him. Caley Cronin, a spokeswoman for Fox News, told USA TODAY there were no sexual harassment claims against Henry at the network prior to Jennifer Eckhart’s claim on June 25.
Henry is seeking to dismiss the parts of the suit that apply to him by the two plaintiffs, Eckhart, a former producer for Fox Business, and Cathy Areu, a former frequent guest as a news analyst on Fox shows.
Eckhart alleged in the suit that Henry raped her and "left her injured, bruised and battered, with bloody wrists" in a New York hotel room "sometime in 2017" and that Fox executives were informed "in graphic and specific detail" about her claim.
Areu accused Henry of sexual harassment, saying he sent her "a slew of wildly inappropriate sexual images and messages – which are in her possession" through the first half of 2020.
In his motions, Henry contends that Eckhart pursued him by sending him come-hither text messages.
"The erotic and encouraging text messages she sent Mr. Henry (including one instructing Mr. Henry to “come and get it”), along with the salacious and explicit pictures of herself, clearly demonstrate that Mr. Henry never assaulted her and that Ms. Eckhart pursued a consensual relationship with him," Henry's lawyers argue in their motion.
"This case is nothing more than Ms. Eckhart’s attempt to grab the gold ring after she was fired from her job at Fox, a decision which had absolutely nothing to so do with Mr. Henry."
Eckhart fired back in a statement to USA TODAY late Monday. “Rape is rape, and can never be 'justified' or 'excused,' " she said. "No man is entitled to violently rape a woman because she sent him consensual looking text messages."
Eckhart said that some of the photographs submitted in Henry's filing "are not even of me. My abuser’s continuing attempt to intimidate and bully me into silence reveals his toxic and predatory mindset."
She continued: "These are the same degrading tactics he used to try to silence me when I was an employee at Fox News, and the reason I and so many women stay silent for so long is because we fear these types of horrific attacks. But, I am no longer afraid of him."
Henry's lawyers also argue that Fox declined to hire Areu for a position at the network and she joined Eckhart’s lawsuit with "flimsy and baseless claims."
"As a frequent Fox guest, she knew that Mr. Henry had no authority to offer her a position there, the lawyers argue.
USA TODAY has reached out to lawyers for Areu.
Henry's motion aimed at Areu argues that she "takes a parsimonious approach" to justifying her claims by quoting only "selective examples" of messages exchanged with Henry. The motion argues that the two were part of a friendly competition involving an exchange of memes trending on the internet.
"As Areu states in one message to Mr. Henry, which she also conveniently omits: 'You’re like the nicest person on the planet,'" the motion asserts.
In both motions, Henry's lawyers list multiple reasons why the lawsuit fails to meet legal standards to prevail, including statutes of limitations, and failure to be more precise about the date of the alleged rape.
"Without a precise date of the alleged rape, Eckhart’s allegations are left too vague for Mr. Henry to affirmatively defend based on the applicable three-year statute of limitations," the motion says.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ex-Fox News anchor Ed Henry files to toss 'malicious' rape lawsuit