Normally, celebrities flock to Seacrest prior to awards shows to discuss fashion, movie trends and any jitters about the big night. Before Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony, it was a completely different story: Seacrest seemed to be grasping at whoever would walk by, and was overwhelmingly ecstatic whenever a star stopped to chat.
Also notable were the folks Seacrest spoke to on the red carpet — the majority of them were men, and he was lacking in A-listers.
Seacrest’s reputation has suffered ever since he was accused of harassment by his former E! wardrobe stylist in November. Before his accuser could go public with the claims, Seacrest first denied the “reckless” allegations against him and co-operated with an internal investigation into the matter by the E! network.
Almost three months later, E! completed its investigation into the allegations by outside counsel hired by NBCUniversal and found “insufficient evidence to support the claims.”
The stylist, Suzie Hardy, told Variety that Seacrest started sexually harassing her soon after she started a job as his personal stylist at E! News in 2006.
Hardy said she endured the unwanted sexually aggressive touching and groping for fear of losing her job. She reported the alleged workplace abuse to her company’s human resources department in 2013 and says two weeks later, she was informed that E! News would end her employment a week after the upcoming Oscars.
WATCH BELOW: Highlights from the 2018 Oscars
Despite Seacrest’s denial of the accusations, it seems like many A-list women opted to give him the cold shoulder (E! is not publicly addressing this, so it’s impossible to prove concretely) on Oscar night. CNN notes that while it does seem like E! had fewer guests than usual, many top-tier actors didn’t arrive until later on, when Seacrest had already signed off.
Some of the stars who stopped to speak with him included Taraji P. Henson, Allison Janney, some of the cast of Get Out, Gael Garcia Bernal, Rita Moreno, Christopher Plummer, Andy Serkis, and Richard Jenkins. (Notably missing were #MeToo movement reps Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek and Mira Sorvino, who walked the red carpet together, and Jennifer Lawrence, Nicole Kidman and Timothée Chalamet.)
American network rival ABC had a steady stream of A-listers, and even Canadian CTV correspondent Ben Mulroney seemed to be getting more plum interviews than Seacrest, which is a definite anomaly.
None of the conversations addressed the massive elephant in the room unless you count Henson’s perceived “diss” of Seacrest. (You can watch the exchange for yourself in the video, top.)
While chatting with Seacrest about Best Supporting Actress nominee Mary J. Blige, Henson said, “The universe has a way of taking care of taking care of good people, know what I mean?”
She then touched his chin and moved on to the next journalist on the red carpet.
“I’m great now that I’m in your company,” she reportedly quipped to ABC’s Wendi Mclendon-Covey.
While Henson denied on Monday morning that her words were a pointed attack, it’s tough to watch the red-carpet footage without thinking there’s more to her comments.
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Seacrest’s placement on the red carpet also seemed off, as if he were relegated to the side.
— Amy Kaufman (@AmyKinLA) March 4, 2018
Seacrest’s E! co-host, Giuliana Rancic, was stationed next to the swimming pool at the nearby Roosevelt Hotel, and she was partnered with relative unknowns to discuss fashion trends and red-carpet happenings.
E! spent an abnormal amount of time back at the pool, and the conversation among the hosts felt stilted; at times, they seemed to be elongating any topic to keep the flow going. Some publications speculated that the setup was a parachute escape in case the red carpet conversations turned ugly, but again that can’t be proven outright.
A source close to Seacrest told CNN prior to Sunday’s Oscar events that he was “frustrated” the accusation of harassment was making headlines again.
In any event, Sunday’s Oscars ceremony was one of the least-watched ever.
The U.S. television audience for the 90th Academy Awards broadcast tumbled nearly 16 per cent from last year, preliminary Nielsen data showed on Monday. That compared with 22.4 per cent a year ago, when the Oscars audience fell to a nine-year low of 32.9 million viewers.
While the apparent awkwardness on Sunday’s red carpet isn’t a presumption of Seacrest’s guilt, it instead questions the logic and wisdom of E!’s choice to have him lead the red-carpet charge. One thing’s a sure bet: the setup will most likely be different by the time the Oscars roll around in 2019.
— With files from Reuters and Katie Scott