The parent company of Hallmark Channel has fired back against former “Home & Family” co-host Mark Steines’ lawsuit alleging that he was let go because he supported two women who had filed sexual harassment complaints against the show’s executive producer, saying that his legal claims have “no merit.”
In a statement issued to TheWrap on Thursday, Crown Media Family Networks said that the decision to replace Steines was due to declining ratings.
Crown also said that third party research “indicated that Mr. Steines was perceived negatively.”
Also Read: Ex-‘Home & Family’ Co-Host Mark Steines Files Lawsuit Over Hallmark Channel Exit
“Crown Media has not seen the complaint, but has read in the media that Mark Steines has filed a lawsuit against Crown Media regarding his separation from ‘Home & Family’ earlier this year. The decision to replace Mark Steines was a measured, strategic and difficult decision for Crown Media to make, but was necessary given that the ratings for the show had declined,” the statement reads. “Further, the results of third party research indicated that Mr. Steines was perceived negatively. There is no merit to the legal claims Mr. Steines is asserting against Crown Media. Crown Media is also surprised that Lisa Bloom is representing Mr. Steines in this matter since she has a consulting agreement with Crown Media.”
The statement added, “Crown Media is proud of ‘Home & Family’ and the continued progress we have made in elevating the content and impact of our program. We are excited about the new creative direction for this new season and its potential.”
The Bloom Firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap.
On Thursday, Steines filed suit against Crown, alleging that he was terminated from “Home & Family” for supporting two female accusers of then-executive producer Woody Fraser.
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According to the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, “In the spring and summer of 2017, two courageous ‘Home & Family’ female producers asserted claims of sexual harassment against Mr. Fraser and Defendants. Plaintiff Mark Steines stood up in support of the women by providing truthful information to the women’s attorneys in support of their claims. Mr. Steines acted appropriately in opposing and reporting Mr. Fraser’s sexual harassment, and supporting the women who spoke out against Mr. Fraser. After learning that Mr. Steines had spoken with the women and their attorney, Defendants chose to flagrantly violate the law by retaliating against him.”
That retaliation, the suit says, included a substantial reduction of Steines’ salary, a cut in his regular voiceover work, a diminished role in network events, and ultimately Steines’ “abrupt early termination, conducted in an utterly unprofessional manner intended to personally humiliate Mr. Steines while maximizing damage to his professional reputation.”
According to the suit, Steines witnessed Fraser acting inappropriately on multiple occasions. In spring 2017, the suit says, two female “Home & Family” employees formally reported their sexual harassment claims and, when contacted by their attorney, Lisa Bloom, Steines “voluntarily participated in Ms. Bloom’s investigation by providing truthful information in support of the sexual harassment victims.”
Also Read: Why Mark Steines Is No Longer Hallmark ‘Home & Family’ Co-Host (Exclusive)
After which, the suit says, Steines was retaliated against, culminating in a May 30, 2018 meeting during which Steines “was terminated effective immediately, with Defendants citing only ‘creative differences.’”
“Mr. Steines had no creative differences with the show, the producers, or network executives,” the suit reads. “Mr. Steines is informed and believes that Defendants’ proffered nondiscriminatory reason for terminating Mr. Steines was actually a pretext for terminating Mr. Steines in retaliation for reporting and opposing Mr. Fraser’s sexual harassment to Defendants in December 2016, and for and speaking to Ms. Bloom in support of Mr. Fraser’s sexual harassment victims in 2017.”
While Fraser is not named as a defendant in the suit, in June 2017 he issued a statement saying that he had refused to settle sexual harassment accusations in “an amount she demanded,” adding, “I engaged in no actionable conduct.”
“In a few days, on behalf of two of her clients, attorney Lisa Bloom may go public and accuse me of sexual harassment claiming that I have created a hostile workplace environment,” the statement read. “I believe this media-driven event is part of a calculated attempt to ruin my reputation after I refused to settle these accusations in an amount she demanded. Like many others, I would have preferred resolving things quietly, even though I engaged in no actionable conduct.”
“The women who are accusing me remain in their jobs as well-paid television executives. Although I am far from perfect, I am confident that when the facts regarding the nature of the allegations are fully revealed, before a jury if necessary, my reputation will be restored,” the statement added.
Related stories from TheWrap:
Ex-‘Home & Family’ Co-Host Mark Steines Files Lawsuit Over Hallmark Channel Exit
‘Home & Family’: Cameron Mathison to Replace Mark Steines as Hallmark Show Co-Host
Fired Hallmark Channel Host Mark Steines to Return to TV Tonight