Television personality Ryan Seacrest joined the deluge of powerful men accused of sexual harassment in mid-November, during the height of the #MeToo movement. Only his situation was a little different from that of a Kevin Spacey or a Harvey Weinstein. In a strategic move, Seacrest released a pre-emptive statement both announcing and denying the coming accusation.
He called the accusation "reckless," pleaded his innocence and said he would cooperate with any investigation into the matter.
"Recently, someone that worked as a wardrobe stylist for me nearly a decade ago at 'E! News' came forward with a complaint suggesting I behaved inappropriately toward her," Seacrest said at the time. "If I made her feel anything but respected, I am truly sorry."
Seacrest — who hosted "E! News" and "American Idol" and is the current co-host of "Live with Kelly and Ryan" — was one of the most famous men accused at the time. The story quickly went global.
Details of the stylist's allegation never became public, but Deadline reported that she requested a "substantial amount of money to keep quiet."
E! opened an investigation into the claims, and Seacrest declined to say anything more at the time.
As of Thursday — more than two months after the allegations were splashed across newspapers and entertainment blogs — Seacrest is one of the few prominent men to have been exonerated by his employer.
E! said outside counsel found insufficient evidence that Seacrest had done anything wrong, according to the Associated Press.
Seacrest wrote a guest column for the Hollywood Reporter detailing his experience. By doing so, he effectively became one of the lone voices from the other side of a high-profile sexual harassment allegation to share his story.
"I do not take things for granted. Every day I am living my childhood dream because of the efforts of so many other people," Seacrest said, adding that he always tried to express gratitude "for the unwavering support of my loved ones and team."
So to "have my workplace conduct questioned was gut-wrenching," Seacrest said.
He knew that many would likely lump him in with everyone else accused of sexual misconduct, particularly as so many stories poured out.
"I knew, regardless of the confidence I had that there was no merit to the allegations, my name would likely soon appear on the lists of those suspected of despicable words and deeds. The pressures of our overflowing news feeds would insist on it."
Seacrest said he supports the #MeToo movement, but he also highlighted its potential downside.
"I absolutely want to be part of the change, the progress, that is coming," he said. "I did not want to be a postscript of evidence of its cause."
But, he added, "Most of us agree that the presumption of innocence is an important standard," Seacrest said. "We are taught early on that it's essential to see all sides, to give everyone a chance to explain and to check for exculpatory evidence that may have been missed."
He said that while national conversations about sexual misconduct continue to rage, it's important to ensure that everyone — "the public, private and public institutions, accusers and alleged accused" — has the opportunity "for a swift and fair review."
To do his part, Seacrest said he will continuing listening to those who have long been unheard.
"My job is to listen. Beyond listening, which I will continue in earnest, I also will ask questions and try to help voices be heard," Seacrest said. "It isn't lost on me that my platforms — radio, TV, social media — can be powerful conduits for change.
- (c) 2018, The Washington Post