Several left-leaning media outlets were quick to pounce on a story over the weekend that a former Fox News guest had allegedly been sexually harassed by cable host Sean Hannity. There’s one problem, though: It doesn’t appear to be true.
During a radio interview Friday with 1170 KFAQ host Pat Campbell, Debbie Schlussel said Hannity “tried to get me to go back to the hotel after the show after he and his executive producer Bill Shine [now Fox’s co-president] treated me horribly.”
Schlussel said she was “banned from Fox News” because she refused to go back to Hannity’s hotel after a book signing in the early 2000s. However, Schlussel never alleged that Hannity had asked her to his hotel room.
Despite the fact that the ex-Fox guest never claimed that Hannity sexually harassed her, even the radio station she spoke with characterized the conversation that way: “Debbie Schlussel accuses Sean Hannity of Sexual Harassment,” the headline trumpeted.
The story has since spread across the internet, with The Daily Beast running the since-changed headline, “Sean Hannity Accused of Sexually Harassing Fox News Guest,” and The Huffington Post writing, “Sean Hannity is the latest Fox News star to be accused of sexual harassment.”
The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast have since updated their stories. And in an interview Monday with LawNewz.com, Schlussel, a lawyer, set the record straight.
“I would never accuse him of that. Sexual harassment has a special meaning under the law, and I would never accuse him of that,” she told the website. “I never thought I was sexually harassed by Sean Hannity — I thought he was weird and creepy, not someone I liked.”
Hannity released a scathing statement following Schlussel’s radio interview last week. The Fox personality suggested he might take her to court for libel:
LET ME BE CLEAR THE COMMENTS ABOUT ME ON A RADIO SHOW THIS WEEK by this individual ARE 100% false and a complete fabrication. This individual is 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 individual has not just slandered me over the years but many people who this individual disagrees with.
For her part, Schlussel told LawNewz.com she is considering a countersuit because Hannity’s comments are “defamatory.”
“Everything I said was true, and truth is an absolute bar to defamation,” she said. “He, on the other hand, has a murky record on truth.”
All of this comes on the heels of former Fox host Bill O’Reilly’s ouster last week. O’Reilly was dismissed from the network in the wake of a series of sexual harassment allegations reported by The New York Times.
However, this is not Schlussel’s first foray into launching attacks against Hannity. In a 2010 blog post, she claimed the war veteran charity Freedom Alliance, to which Hannity has reportedly donated more than $1 million, is “all a huge scam” and that Hannity has personally benefitted from his relationship with the charity.
Thomas Kilgannon, the founder and president of Freedom Alliance, rejected Schlussel’s claims immediately after they were made:
The blog posting accuses our friend Sean Hannity of personally benefiting from Freedom Alliance. This is FALSE. Freedom Alliance has never provided planes, hotels, cars, limos, or anything else to Sean. Sean gets nothing from Freedom Alliance except our gratitude for his personal generosity and for all he has done to help the troops and our organization.
And even earlier, in 2007, Schlussel accused Hannity of “deliberately ripping off” an anti-Muslim column she wrote for the New York Post.
“That’s Sean Hannity for you,” she wrote. “This is not the first time he’s done this to me, just the latest.”