Tarana Burke, the civil rights activist credited with starting the Me Too movement, has stated that E! should not send Ryan Seacrest to cover the red carpet at the Oscars on Sunday in the midst of his sexual harassment allegations.
Burke first used the "Me Too" slogan in 2006 as a catchy banner for the crusade against sexual abuse, assault, harassment and misconduct in the workplace and in American culture. She is currently the Senior Director for an organization called Girls for Gender Equality. In 2017, when actresses like Alyssa Milano began using the Me Too hashtag prominently, Burke was named one of Time's People of the Year.
Now, only a few months later, many in Hollywood are uncomfortable with Ryan Seacrest hosting E!'s red carpet coverage of the Academy Awards. Some actresses have been publicly discussing how they plan to handle a public interaction with a man facing accusations, but Burke says that decision shouldn't be their burden.
“I feel like we should be celebrating the fact that people are finally paying attention to what we’ve been talking about for decades,” she told Variety in preparation for the Oscars. To her, that means re-evaluating all protocols, including the 11-year-long tradition of Seacrest hosting the Oscars for E!.
“They really shouldn’t send him," she said plainly. “We shouldn’t have to make those choices of, ‘Do we or don’t we?'”
Seacrest's former stylist, Suzie Hardy, has accused the prolific host of several instances of sexual misconduct and even assault. She further says that she lost her job with E! after reporting the incidents through the proper channels. Seacrest has denied the allegations at every turn. E! conducted an internal investigation and reportedly found "insufficient evidence" for Hardy's case. No criminal complaint has been lodged.
"This is not about his guilt or innocence," Burke declared. “It’s about there being an accusation that’s alive, and until they sort of out, it’s really on E! News and shouldn’t be on us. … It will let us know where they stand in terms of how respectful E! News is of this issue – and of women.”0comments
Burke did express her hope that the host of the show, Jimmy Kimmel, would speak openly and gracefully about the issue, which can no longer be ignored in the entertainment industry. She called Kimmel "smart" and said that it should be a "relief" to attendees that figures like Harvey Weinstein are no longer in the VIP seats.
“I have heard from actresses who’ve said, ‘You don’t understand how strange it is that he’s not here because [Weinsten] was ever-present.’ They were expressing a sense of relief at not having to see him and not having to pretend anymore. It feels like the veil has lifted,” she added.