'You are a privilege to work with and I adore you'
Kelly Ripa is wholeheartedly standing by her Live! co-host Ryan Seacrest after he was accused of sexual misconduct by a former stylist, allegations he has staunchly denied.
On Thursday’s broadcast, Ripa, 47, stood up for Seacrest, 43, applauding his professionalism and saying she is looking forward to seeing him at the Oscars on Sunday, when he is set to host E! red carpet coverage.
“I cannot wait to see you there,” she said. “I am very excited. And I just want you to know, you are a privilege to work with and I adore you. Speaking on behalf of all of us here, I know what a easy, professional, great person you are, and I feel very, very lucky to work with you each and every day.”
The two hugged after her comments.
Seacrest’s former stylist Suzie Hardy has accused the producer and TV host of sexually harassing and assaulting her over the six years that she was employed by E! from 2007-13, including grabbing her crotch multiple times. The network’s investigation into the matter, conducted by outside counsel, found “insufficient evidence” to support Hardy’s claims.
In a statement to PEOPLE on Tuesday, Seacrest accused Hardy of attempting to blackmail him.
“Much has been said about the #MeToo and Times Up movement(s) and the importance of providing women and men with the opportunity to share their stories of workplace misconduct, in an effort to change our culture and the systemic inequalities that exist. I absolutely support this cause unequivocally and applaud all the brave souls who have come forward to share their stories,” he said. “Sadly, last fall I became one of the accused, which I promptly revealed proactively to the network involved and to the public. And to be equally clear, those accusations were then investigated by an independent third-party over the course of a two-month process and involved dozens of interviews that included me, the accused and countless others. Ultimately, my name was cleared. I eagerly participated in the investigation in order to demonstrate my innocence because I know my truth, and I believe in due process.”
“Yesterday, Variety published a salacious story that revealed the specific claims against me for the first time — even though an independent third-party investigator found insufficient evidence to support the claims,” he continued. “Much to my dismay, Variety didn’t speak with me or bother to speak with other credible witnesses or even ask for any of the evidence that was obtained during the investigation when offered, all of which clearly challenged the veracity of the claims made against me.”
“This person who has accused me of horrible things offered, on multiple occasions, to withdraw her claims if I paid her millions of dollars. I refused,” he continued. “I have worked extremely hard to achieve my success and I don’t take my opportunities for granted. I don’t want to accuse anyone of not telling the truth but in this case, I have no choice but to again deny the claims against me, remind people that I was recused of any wrongdoing, and put the matter to rest.”
In response to Seacrest’s statement, Hardy’s attorney, Howard E. King of King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano, LLP, told PEOPLE: “Not only is that false, but it is an attempt to smear the victim and divert attention from her very specific and supportable claims.”
Earlier this week, a source told PEOPLE this week that Ripa “is fully supportive and 110 percent behind him.” His girlfriend Shayna Taylor has also spoken out in his defense, and spokespeople for both American Idol and iHeartMedia confirmed to PEOPLE they stand behind him.