When Ryan Seacrest was accused of sexual abuse by a wardrobe stylist who worked with him at E! News, longtime “American Idol” stage manager Debbie Williams had an immediate reaction: “I call BS on this whole thing.”
Williams worked closely with Seacrest for 15 years as the lead stage manager on “Idol.” She reached out to TheWrap after reading Suzie Hardy’s accusations that Seacrest pursued her, repeatedly embraced her while clad only in his underwear, and grabbed her crotch on more than one occasion. She said the sexual misconduct took place between 2007 and 2013.
On Sunday, some stars on the Oscars red carpet shunned E! News and Seacrest, who denies the accusations.
“I’ve been in this town since 1976,” Williams told TheWrap. “Worked in a lot of different capacities, been stage-managing for 34 years. I’ve worked with everybody. And never, never in all my 15 years with him, if you told me this story, would I believe you.”
Williams now lives outside of California and opted not to work on the “American Idol” reboot, which Seacrest will host when it launches on March 11. She first encountered Seacrest in 2002, when she was hired as the lead stage manager on “Idol” after decades of working on live shows, including multiple Academy Awards shows.
“I met him when he was 26 years old and we started ‘Idol,'” she said. “I had never seen a more driven, professional kid that age in my life. I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ We didn’t know what the show was going to be at that time — we had no idea. But he had a work ethic like nobody I’d seen in a while. When he came to work, he worked. Whether he was in his dressing room, whether he was onstage, this kid was focused and he was working.
“And he was so focused in the beginning, I almost thought he was a eunuch. I thought, ‘This kid doesn’t care anything about anything but his career.'”
Hardy alleges that Seacrest brought her to the “American Idol” set to dress him “on multiple occasions,” which Williams said she never witnessed. “We had a stylist, Miles [Siggins],” she said, adding that she didn’t recall ever seeing Hardy.
Seacrest’s devotion to work, she said, extended to his dressing room, where she never saw him alone with a stylist or anybody else. “I was in his dressing room constantly,” she said. “I thought about it, and there was never a time when there weren’t several people in there. He was always doing five things at once. He wasn’t just getting his makeup on or putting his clothes on — he was making a deal, talking to somebody on the phone.”
“Even when he was getting ready, he went into the other room and changed into his suit, but he was still talking to somebody out here or on the phone with somebody.”
And Seacrest, she added, was not flirtatious with anyone around him. “Never,” she said firmly. “In fact, there was a moment in the beginning of ‘Idol’ when there might have been someone in his dressing room, doing his makeup or something, who was a little flirtatious with him. He did not like it. He felt uncomfortable with it.” The flirtatious employee, she said, was replaced.
Over the years, Williams said she recognized that Seacrest was not a eunuch, but a man with a distinct preference for young, very skinny women. “Ryan has a certain type,” she said. “He’s had girlfriends over the years, and I’ve always seen them when they’ve come to the show and everything. And [Hardy] doesn’t meet that type, I hate to say that. She doesn’t meet the type.”
If there had been anything untoward in Seacrest’s actions toward women in the 15 years that she worked closely with him, Williams said, she would have known it. “God knows I’ve worked with people who are less than lovely,” she said. “I have been sexually harassed, and I’ve worked with people who I later see things in magazines and go, ‘Oh yeah, I knew that.’
“But that was never Ryan, ever. If I thought for a second, Ooh, I’ve seen things, I would call him out. But nothing. Ever. Nothing. The crew was all talking at the Oscars, and everybody — audio people, camera guys, everybody — went, ‘We have never thought this guy was anything but a class act.”
She said the accusations disturbed her because she’s an avid supporter of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. “I love this movement, I love that people are coming out,” she said. “I love that some people are saying things and other people are losing their power, because that’s legit. But in a case like this, there’s nothing legit about it.
“I’m not the guru of this. I’m just dealing with a human being that I know has integrity. I am a big advocate for women’s rights, but on this one I’m calling foul.”
Seacrest announced last November that E! was investigating an accusation of misconduct against him by “someone that worked … for me nearly a decade ago at E! News.” Seacrest was investigated and cleared by NBCUniversal, which stands by the anchor.
When Variety reported on the details of Hardy’s accusations on Feb. 27, Seacrest vehemently denied them, and his attorney said Hardy requested $15 million for her silence.
Hardy responded that she “was emboldened by the bravery of others to finally and confidentially tell my story to NBC. Ryan elected to take the story public with a false narrative that he was exonerated and the victim of some sort of money grab.”