Kelly Ripa defends co-host Ryan Seacrest amid misconduct allegations

Ryan Seacrest received two proclamations of support Thursday — including an on-air endorsement from “Live” co-host Kelly Ripa — days after a former stylist on the E! Network went public with allegations that the TV personality subjected her to years of unwanted sexual misconduct.

On Thursday’s broadcast of “Live,” Ripa praised her beleaguered co-host as an “easy, professional, great person,” and expressed excitement over Seacrest’s upcoming stint manning the red carpet coverage at the Oscars for E!, an annual tradition for the network.

“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.”

She punctuated her remarks with a hug.

The comments come days after an attorney for stylist Suzie Hardy sent a legal letter to the management of E!, corporate parent NBCUniversal and Seacrest in November, the contents of which were made public by Variety on Monday. (NBCUniversal is also NBC News’ parent company.)

In the letter, Hardy accuses the 43-year-old “Live With Regis and Kelly” co-host of grinding his erect penis against her while wearing only underwear, groping her vagina, and at spanking her rear so hard that it left a large welt still visible hours later.

“She would go to tie his shoe and Ryan would shove her head toward his crotch,” a former co-worker, who wished to remain anonymous because he stills works in Hollywood, told NBC News on Wednesday’s show. “I saw that more than once.”

Seacrest has denied the charges. He said in a statement in part about Hardy, “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 added that he “worked extremely hard to achieve my success” and “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.”

Seacrest’s lawyer told NBC News that the former co-worker’s claims are “lies.”

“These claims are not new and were considered by the investigator hired by E!, who found no evidence of wrongdoing,” the lawyer said.

E! conducted an independent investigation into the allegations lodged by Hardy and said in a statement that it found “insufficient evidence to support the claims against Seacrest.”

Also Thursday, another stylist, Jayson Stacy, who has applied Seacrest’s make-up for 13 years told People Magazine that “there has never been any ill words spoken to me about him.”

“With women, there’s so many females that work with us. … I never once heard anyone say that he’s done anything to make them feel uncomfortable — that he’s been mean to them, that they wanted to leave their job because of him,” said Stacy, who overlapped with Hardy for six years at E!.

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