Sexual harassment complaints are wafting in the summer air.
It seems the juicier the allegations, the truer they seem.
But a sexual harassment lawsuit is just that — allegations — and a case as serious as one that could destroy a person’s life should not be tried in the media. But don’t tell that to WaPo‘s “reported” media blogger Erik Wemple, who specializes in siding with whoever presents the more gory details, giving graph upon graph upon graph to whomever is doing the accusing.
So much so that Armstrong Williams — the accused — has been instructed not to speak directly with any other members of the media.
So, yeah, fuck Erik Wemple’s take on the lawsuit against Williams. A reader really has to wonder why and how WaPo lets him be so invested in one side of a story over another without ever really doing any proper investigating. If you read his coverage of Gretchen Carlson Vs. Roger Ailes, it’s much of the same. If you’re Wemple, she has to be right because, well, Wemple, the unreported prick, says so.
His headline: “Don’t settle, Gretchen Carlson!” In one of his many pieces on it, he wrote, “Here, the Erik Wemple Blog would like to disclose a conflict of interest in this matter: We want this case to go the distance, the better to feast on all the motions and materials that a full-scale discovery could well produce.” A more recent Wemple headline on the matter: “Roger Ailes opts for secrecy, cowardice in face of Gretchen Carlson suit.”
Despite the fact that several women at FNC have backed Ailes and said he never harassed them, Wemple said their views may not indicate that Ailes is not a creep. “That Van Susteren and Pirro would speak up for Ailes is helpful, though scarcely dispositive,” he wrote. “The corner-office creep depicted in Carlson’s complaint needn’t have harassed every woman in the joint to establish his bona fides as a corner-office creep.”
As boss, he inanely wrote, Ailes can bump his employess’ pay and decide who anchors what show. From that, Wemple deduces this: “In light of all that, is there any wonder that Carlson may have decided to grit her teeth over the alleged conduct of her boss and stick around for a high-paying, high-profile job?”
Let’s get this straight: Based on absolutely nothing, Wemple has decided that Gretchen Carlson is a victim of Roger Ailes.
That just isn’t good enough.
The Mirror is going to give you both sides of the ordeal involving Armstrong Williams, a top aide to Dr. Ben Carson‘s presidential campaign. And then: Believe what you will.
On Wednesday, Charlton Woodyard, 28, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Williams in federal court. His attorney is longtime sexual harassment lawyer Debra Katz, who spoke to The Mirror about the impending case.
(From L to R): Armstrong Williams, Charlton Woodyard.
The basics: According to Williams’ camp, Woodyard worked for Williams at Howard Stirk Holdings, II, LLC (HSH) between December 2015 and April 2016. Williams’ spokesman Shermichael Singleton— a former aide to ex-GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney — said Williams has been a mentor to Woodyard since 2013.
Woodyard’s side disputes the timing of his employment for Williams. From the court doc: “He was employed by Mr. Williams in the District of Columbia from April 2013, until September 2013. He was employed by Mr. Williams and Howard Stirk Holdings II, LLC in Birmingham, Alabama from November 9, 2015, until April 29, 2016.”
A publicist circulating the lawsuit on behalf of Woodyard and his attorney said in an email that “the suit details how Mr. Williams used his star power as a prominent conservative political commentator and radio host to cultivate a relationship with Mr. Woodyard.”
The publicist’s note and the complaint lay out the information like a child molester “grooming” his prey.
“Mr. Williams, who is 30 years older than Mr. Woodyard, befriended the then 26-year-old and convinced him to work for him, full-time, for little or no compensation, and rewarded him with introductions to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, U.S. Senator Tim Scott, and presidential candidates Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson.”
In a statement, Katz said, “Mr. Williams brought Mr. Woodyard into a mentor-mentee relationship where he controlled Mr. Woodyard financially, professionally, and emotionally, and ultimately abused his power to attempt to exploit him sexually. After Mr. Woodyard rejected Mr. Williams’ crude sexual advances and offers to pay him for sex, Mr. Williams viciously retaliated against him.”
Why would a 26-year-old man feel he had no free will in a span of three years? This was not a kidnapping situation. There was no mention of a gun to his head or drugs slipped into his meals. There is, so far, no concrete proof of any of the charges in the complaint. When The Mirror questioned Katz about the trips to Italy (to apparently study fashion), France as well as a gym steam room and Williams’ bedroom for a back rub, the attorney snapped that she wasn’t going to litigate this in the media and shut down any questions concerning the legitimacy of her client’s contentions. She also informed me that she had litigated sexual harassment cases for many years.
“I appreciate your perspective, but unfortunately these episodes of sexual harassment are very common,” Katz told The Mirror in a phone interview. “It is when someone has tremendous power that they are able to lord over someone without power that this type of scenario occurs.”
When asked why her client would put himself in such sketchy scenarios with Williams — the lawsuit includes the steam room, his bedroom and even the “romantic” Sistine Chapel where Williams allegedly held Woodyard’s hand — she replied, “Someone who had been so outspoken in criticizing gay lifestyle – he did not think that this was going to happen.”
The suit claims that Williams grabbed Woodyard’s penis. It also says he asked Woodyard to massage his buttocks, which is astonishingly where Woodyard drew the line: Woodyard agreed to massage his alleged bosses’ shoulders, at which point Williams allegedly said Woolyard was terrible at massage. Still, Williams offered to pay him for sex.
Katz ultimately apologized to The Mirror for snapping — no harm done, we agreed we were both doing our jobs.
Except you have to read between the lines when an attorney gets so dramatically touchy about questions that would weigh on a juror’s mind. When asked what concrete proof they have for any of these damning allegations, Katz refused to say how she planned to prove them, be it a possible recording or texts.
Asked why she would not say what evidence she had, Katz replied, “Because it’s appropriate to do in a court of law. Again, we are prepared to produce all the evidence in a court of law… We have every confidence that we will be able to prove each and every one of the allegations in the complaint.”
Perhaps after the court costs grow so sky high that anyone with half a brain might settle?
In a lengthy phone conversation, Singleton, Williams’ spokesman, stressed to The Mirror that he was “absolutely shocked” by the allegations and strongly declared them untrue.
He suggested mentoring someone may be more trouble than it’s worth.
“When you have a level of fame and wealth sometimes it’s better to move on than dealing with a headache,” he said. “None of us have ever had any of these situations with Mr. Williams. None of us have ever had this, ever. You have to wonder, what makes this person special? Why this individual out of the haystack? It’s almost amusing how this came about. It’s almost like you’re reading a novel.”
Singleton can’t fathom how any of this could possibly be true.
“If all of these allegations had any ounce of truth we’re not talking about someone who is a teenager or a child,” he said. “We’re talking about someone who can make decisions on his own. At some point much earlier on, he could have said to himself, this is not a safe, healthy environment for me. That never happened. Knowing that, you have to seriously question the legitimacy of the suit… Why would an adult continue to put themselves in an environment where they feel like they are in some type of danger?”
Asked if he was shocked by the details in the lawsuit, he said, “Of course. Are you kidding me? There’s no way this thing could be true.”
When questioned about a potential counter defamation lawsuit against Woodyard, Singleton said, “I don’t want to speak too soon on any legal strategy…doing so would be premature. I do think it’s fair to say that we are going to use any legal means or strategies that are at our disposal. We are going to consider them all. I think the Washington Post article was completely biased and unfair.”
All that said, Woodyard’s lawsuit against Williams claims the following:
- “Mr. Williams lured Mr. Woodyard into his orbit with the promise of assistance in realizing his dreams of financial success in either the fashion or media realms.”
- “Mr. Williams also took Mr. Woodyard as his guest to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in both 2014 and 2015. Mr. Williams used this relationship to control Mr. Woodyard financially, professionally, and emotionally, and ultimately abused his power to attempt to exploit him sexually.” (Full disclosure: I attended the Washington Correspondents’ Dinner with CSPAN in 2010 and never felt any need or pressure to sleep with anyone at CSPAN. You can actually go to this dinner as a guest and not be sexually harassed.)
- “Mr. Williams served as a top advisor to then presidential candidate Dr. Carson, who publicly equated homosexuality with bestiality, opposed same-sex marriage, and accused marriage equality advocates of “directly attacking the relationship between God and his people.’ For these reasons, Mr. Woodyard did not think Mr. Williams’s actions were sexual in nature given his expressed animus towards LGBTQ individuals and his endorsement of Dr. Carson and his anti-gay views.”
- “On November 1, 2015, Mr. Williams subjected Mr. Woodyard to a prolonged and unwelcomed series of sexual advances. Mr. Woodyard repeatedly rejected Mr. Williams’s sexual advances and explicitly told Mr. Williams that he was not interested in having sex with him. Mr. Williams refused to take no for an answer and told Mr. Woodyard that he was attracted to him. He then groped Mr. Woodyard’s penis and engaged in other unwelcome sexual contact. (Note to readers: In other words, before Woolyard formally worked for Williams, Williams allegedly made a pass with him. A month later, Woolyard took a salaried position with HSH.” (Unsolicited advice for Woolyard: If someone allegedly sexually harasses you, you do not go to work for them a month later)
- “When Mr. Woodyard rejected these unwelcomed advances, Mr. Williams offered to pay him for sex. As Mr. Woodyard had feared he would, Mr. Williams responded to Mr. Woodyard’s rejection of his sexual advances by commencing a campaign of retaliation against him, which culminated in his termination from his job with HSH.”
- “Mr. Williams also sometimes hugged Mr. Woodyard tightly, pressing his penis against Mr. Woodyard’s. This sexual contact was unwelcome.”
- After Mr. Woodyard entered Mr. Williams’s bedroom to discuss business, Mr. Williams asked Mr. Woodyard: “why are you wearing so many layers?” When Mr. Woodyard responded that he was “freezing,” Mr. Williams replied that that he’s “got the heat” and that his “heat is better” than clothes for keeping him warm. Mr. Woodyard ignored the comment, as well as the grunting noises Mr. Williams was making, and instead tried to talk about ways in which Mr. Williams could support Washington Times Live.
- Mr. Woodyard attempted to change the subject by discussing Mr. Williams’s house, and mentioned that he had never been in the house’s basement. Mr. Williams responded by saying “I’ve never been in your basement” – a crude reference to anal sex. Mr. Woodyard tried to refocus the conversation on business matters but Mr. Williams was clearly interested only in forcing himself on Mr. Woodyard sexually… When Mr. Woodyard remained silent, Mr. Williams instructed Mr. Woodyard to give him a back massage. Mr. Woodyard tried to decline this demand by saying his hands get tired fast. Mr. Williams said, “you wouldn’t say that if Beyoncé were next to you.”
- “Mr. Woodyard realized that by responding to his requests for help in business matters with a demand for a massage, Mr. Williams was making it clear that he would provide that help only if Mr. Woodyard acquiesced to his unwelcome demands and did as Mr. Williams requested. Mr. Woodyard gave Mr. Williams a brief shoulder and back massage, hoping that would placate Mr. Williams. Mr. Williams said “your hands are terrible” and “is that the best you can do?” He then ordered Mr. Woodyard to “massage my butt cheeks.” Mr. Woodyard backed away and stood up, laughing nervously at this request. Mr. Williams commented that he knew Mr. Woodyard’s “discomfort zone.” Mr. Williams then insisted that Mr. Woodyard get in bed with him. Mr. Woodyard did so but tried to maintain some physical distance.”
- Undeterred, Mr. Williams grabbed Mr. Woodyard’s penis through his pants and said to him, “you got small feet, small hands… and an oversized weapon. How does that work? How is that possible?” Mr. Woodyard pushed Mr. Williams’s hand away and again trying to divert the conversation to business matters. Mr. Williams ordered Mr. Woodyard to stop talking. Mr. Williams continued to moan and demonstrate his sexual arousal while making comments about how hard Mr. Woodyard’s penis was. Mr. Williams persisted with his unwelcome sexual advances, to which Mr. Woodyard responded that he was not interested in Mr. Williams sexually. When Mr. Woodyard made clear, once again, that he did not like Mr. Williams touching his penis, Mr. Williams rolled over on his side, scrolled messages on his cellphone and completely ignored Mr. Woodyard.
In September, 2013, according to the suit, Williams helped Woodyard land a job at The Washington Times as a media booker. The suit claimed Williams got Woodyard canned from his job at TWT because Williams was upset that Woodyard no longer had time to pal around with him and was no longer dependent on him financially. His superiors there said they had to lay him off. Instead, Woodyard resigned.
Woodyard eventually began working at HSH in late 2015. But in early February, 2016, the suit says, work emails to superiors went unreturned. In late February, the suit claims Williams “demoted” Woodyard to videographer for his Birmingham-area stations. In March, they allegedly put him on probation. On April 19, he was was formally fired. He initially signed a severance agreement, but later changed his mind.
HSH’s Marcus Mullings, who served as Woodyard’s supervisor, told The Mirror that Woodyard was not a good employee. He described “a pattern of lateness, tardiness, and not showing up to work.” He said Woodyard was informed about his poor performance and expressed that he wanted to get Woodyard “back on track.”
But he says that never happened. “After a while a company can only do so much with any of its employees,” Mullings told The Mirror.
Interestingly, on Woodyard’s LinkedIn page, he self-describes as a “Global Lifestyle Influencer.” A bio says he is a “nine-year veteran of using conventional and unorthodox means effectively in business.”
When asked how her client was doing, Katz said Woodyard was not well. The suit claims “depression.”
Katz said, “I think that this has been a really hard experience for him. He really trusted Armstrong Williams. He really revered him. This has really rocked his world.”
Williams is expected to be served with the lawsuit Thursday. He will have 20 days to admit or deny the allegations. From there, according to Katz, the case enters a discovery period in which she gets to take depositions. “There would be no basis for a court to throw out the case,” she said. “We are confident it will get to a jury.”
But Williams’ side hopes that the case never reaches a jury trial.
“We are going to do everything we can to deal with this reasonably,” said Singleton, who explained that the company’s in-house counsel will be dealing with the matter.
Asked about Williams’ sexual orientation and the accusations surrounding it in the lawsuit, the spokesman refused to go there.
“We are not going to respond,” he said.