The E! red carpet show at the Academy Awards felt as if it was on the brink of blowing up at a moment’s notice, with a sexual harassment claim against the host, Ryan Seacrest, hanging over the festivities.
Viewers wondered if a celebrity would turn the questions around on Seacrest, or if he would willingly address the accusation. But no such confrontation was broadcast, and his interviews with celebrities stuck to the typical fare of fashion and film. There were no immediate indications that celebrities were bypassing him for interviews. Mary J. Blige, Christopher Plummer, Allison Janney and other Oscar nominees stopped to talk to him.
While the Harvey Weinstein accusations made the red carpets at other award shows this year a primary platform for actors to voice support for sexual harassment victims and the fight against gender imbalances, Sunday’s preshow event could have fit in any prior year. Seacrest did not ask any questions about sexual harassment or pay equity. (His co-host, Giuliana Rancic, who was stationed at a Los Angeles hotel, did at one point discuss the #MeToo movement before the show segued back to Seacrest.)
Uncertainty about Seacrest’s role arose in November when his former personal stylist, Suzie Hardy, accused him of sexual harassment when they worked together from 2007-2013. Her lawyer said Seacrest had asked her inappropriate sexual questions, slapped her buttocks, given her a bear hug while wearing only his underwear, “forced himself on top” of her and grabbed her crotch.
He has strongly denied the allegations, writing in a Feb. 5 essay for The Hollywood Reporter that the accusations were false. NBCUniversal, the parent company of E!, opted to keep him as host of its red-carpet coverage after an investigation by an independent counsel.
“Ultimately, my name was cleared,” Seacrest said in a statement. “I eagerly participated in the investigation in order to demonstrate my innocence because I know my truth, and I believe in due process.”
Seacrest was not the only issue that could have attracted criticism from the actors. At the Golden Globes red carpet in January, Debra Messing and Eva Longoria chastised the network over pay equity during their interviews with the network. Catt Sadler, a former E! host, left the network in November, saying that a male colleague, Jason Kennedy, was paid nearly twice as much.
And on Thursday, Aileen Gram-Moreno, an E! producer, said in a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that she was unfairly terminated for allowing Longoria’s interview to air.
While E! steered clear of politics, ABC’s red-carpet show asked Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd, two of the first accusers against Weinstein, about the #MeToo movement less than 15 minutes into the show.
“I want people to know that this movement isn’t stopping,” Sorvino said, speaking to Krista Smith of Vanity Fair. “We’re going forward until we have an equitable and safe world for women.”
An article in The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday said the E! broadcast would run on a 30-second tape delay, ostensibly allowing the network time to squash any criticism of Seacrest. Asked about a tape delay, an E! spokeswoman said the show was “business as usual.”
“As always, we tape multiple sources of content simultaneously to deliver the best possible show, and there are often brief delays between interviews,” the spokeswoman said.