Britt McHenry, the Fox Nation commentator who is suing her former co-host George Murdoch (aka Tyrus) for sexual harassment, lost the phone containing text messages she says are central to her claims, according to a response filed by Fox News Media lawyers Tuesday.
Whether that’s a big deal for the case going forward depends on which legal team one asks.
McHenry’s lawyer, Lisa Bloom, told TheWrap, “Britt has already provided all of the relevant text messages, which she downloaded before she lost her phone, to the investigators and in discovery. We have also offered a forensic examination of her laptop and cloud to obtain any and all messages between her and Ms. Murdoch. She has nothing to hide.”
In the filing from earlier this week, however, Fox News’ lawyers wrote that they “do not concede in any way that the text log is complete or accurate” as a result.
The lawyers said, “By Plaintiff’s counsel’s representation, Plaintiff lost her phone before she filed this lawsuit and before she submitted what she claimed to be an accurate representation of 5,156 text messages she exchanged with Tyrus (‘text log’) that she had provided to her attorneys from her phone to an independent investigator. In light of Plaintiff’s late disclosure that she lost the phone, Fox Defendants have not authenticated or verified the accuracy or completeness of the text log provided by Plaintiff and now may not be able to do so. Indeed, the Fox Defendants may not be able to verify whether messages were deleted from Plaintiff’s phone prior to the creation of the text log or whether text messages were altered before being placed on the text log.”
The new filing also pointed out that McHenry offered her phone for forensic testing in October 2019, but the offer couldn’t have been “genuine” since the phone was lost before she filed her suit. Asked about the timing of the phone loss as it relates to the suit, Bloom said she could not comment further, but that their response would be filed “soon.”
In December, a federal judge ruled that McHenry’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Murdoch could move forward, but her claims against Fox News’ parent company and two of its executives, John Finley and Monica Mekeel, were dismissed.
Though the judge dismissed McHenry’s claims of aiding and abetting sexual harassment and gender discrimination against Jennifer Rauchet, an executive producer on Fox Nation, McHenry is still able to pursue her claims of retaliation against Rauchet.
In 2019, McHenry sued Murdoch, Fox News, parent company Fox Corp. and three network executives — Rauchet, Finley and Mekeel — after she said the network failed to adequately respond to her accusations of sexual harassment against Murdoch and then retaliated against her for coming forward.
In her original complaint, McHenry said that Murdoch’s sexual harassment began in August 2018, just before they would become co-hosts on Fox Nation’s “Un-PC” show. At that time, McHenry said, Murdoch began sending her unwanted sexual texts such as, “Dick pic coming in 5 sec!!!!” and “I please especially on your knees hotness,” according to the suit.
In 2019, Fox News said, “This matter has been fully investigated independently by two outside investigators who have exhausted every resource and avenue in doing so. We stand by our processes and the conclusions of those impartial reviews. We recognize Britt’s right to tell her side of the story and will defend in litigation our actions, which have been evidence-based and wholly appropriate.”