Hours after Fox News suspends Eric Bolling, an accuser comes forward

Eric-Bolling-Caroline-Heldman
Hours after Fox News suspended host Eric Bolling following claims he sent lewd photos to co-workers, former Fox News guest Caroline Heldman accused Bolling of making unsolicited sexual advances to her.

Fox News has suspended Eric Bolling after claims the popular host sent lewd photos to at least three female coworkers — two at Fox Business and one at Fox News.

“Eric Bolling has been suspended pending the results of an investigation, which is currently underway,” a Fox News spokeswoman told Philly.com Saturday afternoon. The investigation is being conducted by the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, retained by parent company 21st Century Fox to investigate claims of sexual harassment at the network.

According to the HuffPost, which spoke to 14 sources in and out of the two networks, Bolling sent the unsolicited graphic messages several years ago, which included an image of a man’s genitalia. All three women, whose identities were not revealed, say they recognized his number from previous interactions. Four additional people confirmed to the Huffington Post they had seen the photo.

Two current and former Fox News personalities told Philly.com on the condition of anonymity that Bolling never sent lewd messages to them, but that they’ve heard stories about other staffers who has similar interactions with the Fox News host.

Hours after Fox News announced it was suspending Bolling, Caroline Heldman, a politics professor at Occidental College and frequent guest on the network from 2008 to 2011, claimed the Fox News host made an unspecified number of unsolicited sexual advances to her.

“[Bolling] said he wanted to fly me out to New York for in-studio hits and to have ‘fun.’ He asked me to have meals with him on several occasions, but I found excuses not to go,” Heldman wrote in a lengthy Facebook post. “Once, he took me up to his office in New York, showed me his baseball jerseys, and in the brief time I was there, let me know that his office was his favorite place to have sex.”

“My only surprise is that it took this long for people to come forward about Bolling’s behavior, which has been wildly inappropriate for years,” Heldman continued.

Video captured by liberal media watchdog Media Matters shows Bolling referring to Heldman as “Dr. McHottie” during an April 2011 episode of Bulls & Bears, a show he used to host.

“We are investigating this matter and all claims will be taken into account,” a Fox News spokeswoman said Saturday evening.

Neither Bolling nor Michael J. Bowe, his attorney, returned a request for comment following the suspension. On Friday evening, Bowe denied the allegations in an email to Philly.com.

“The story is based on anonymous sources and not true,” Bowe wrote. “No such unsolicited communications occurred,”

“Mr. Bolling recalls no such inappropriate communications, does not believe he sent any such communications, and will vigorously pursue his legal remedies for any false and defamatory accusations that are made,” Bowe said to the HuffPost.

Heldman also claimed  she experienced sexual harassment from fired Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, legendary TV executive and former Fox News consultant Woody Fraser, Kiss frontman Gene Simmon, and former Phillies outfielder Lenny Dkystra, whom she claims told her he gets “sexually aroused when I talk politics.” Mother Jones reported earlier this week that Heldman signed a declaration under penalty of perjury as part of a potential lawsuit that Fraser offered to make her a paid Fox News contributor in exchange for sex.

Bolling currently hosts two Fox News shows — The Specialists, which airs on weekdays at 5 p.m., and Cashin’ In, which airs on Saturday mornings at 11:30 a.m. This week’s episode of Cashin’ In, which was pretaped Friday morning, was pulled from the Fox News lineup this morning and replaced with a live half-hour of America’s News HQ. Guest hosts will fill in for Bolling on The Specialists pending the outcome of the investigation.

Back in June, Fox News president of programming Suzanne Scott re-signed Bolling to a long-term contract, noting the host had become “a staple of the Fox News brand.”

“His insight is valued and we are pleased to have him at the network for many more years to come,” Scott said in a statement at the time.

Bolling is just the latest Fox News personality caught up in sexual misconduct allegations. Last year, former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes was forced to resigned after being accused of sexual harassment by several former employees, including former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson and CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota.

Last April, longtime Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was forced out after the New York Times reported that the network paid $13 million to settle sexual and verbal harassment claims made by five Fox News personalities. Fox News exec Bill Shine was also forced out for his role in at least two of those settlements, and faces several lawsuits from current and former Fox News personalities who claim he looked the other way and protected bad behavior during his tenure.

Last month, Fox Business host Charles Payne was suspended after allegations surfaced that he sexually harassed a female political analyst after ending an extramarital affair with her. Payne has denied the allegations, calling them an “ugly lie.”

Over at Fox Sports, former exec Jason Horowitz was fired in July after being interviewed as part of an investigation by parent company 21st Century Fox into allegations of sexual harassment. Through his lawyer, Horowitz denied the “slanderous accusations” made by the network, but Fox Sports said it was sticking by its decision.

“Mr. Horowitz’s termination was fully warranted and his lawyer’s accusations are ill-informed and misguided,” Daniel Petrocelli, who is representing Fox Sports, said in a statement to Philly.com.