Three months after his mysterious and abrupt departure from Hallmark Channel’s flagship talk show “Home & Family”, Mark Steines is retaliating with a lawsuit.
Deadline is reporting that Steines filed a four-claim lawsuit on Tuesday, in which he depicts himself as a #MeToo supporter who was fired for standing up for two female executives on the show after they complained about sexual harassment from the show’s exec producer, Woody Fraser; Fraser, 82, is a legendary TV producer who mentored Fox News’ Roger Ailes and created such hits as “The Mike Douglas Show”.
In his suit, Steines names Crown Media Family Networks and Crown Media Holdings (parent company of the Hallmark Channel) as defendants, accusing the companies of retaliation and wrongful termination, claiming that Steines “through his representatives regularly warned and alerted Defendants that Executive Producer Woody Fraser harassed and verbally abused producers on the show. Defendants took no action on his complaints.”
Steines’ suit alleges that his support for the women — who hired attorney Lisa Bloom’s law firm to pursue a sexual harassment suit against Fraser — made Steines “a target for Defendants’ executives, who were furious that Mr. Steines had opposed and reported Mr. Fraser’s sexual harassment, and then spoken to Ms. Bloom as a witness supportive of Mr. Fraser’s sexual harassment victims.”
Bloom — a high-profile attorney specializing in sexual harassment cases, whose clients have included one of Bill Cosby’s accusers — is now representing Steines. “Mr. Steines alleges that in the summer of 2017, he stood up in support of two women who brought sexual harassment claims against the show’s then-executive producer, Woody Fraser,” said Bloom. “He alleges that after he did, everything changed, with the network taking away his voice-over work, diminishing his role on the network, reducing his profile at industry events, cutting his salary by 25 per cent, and ultimately firing him months before the end of his contract.”
According to Steines’ complaint, Fraser (who no longer works on the show) ran “a fear-based operation on the set,” in which the exec producer “regularly bullied, verbally abused, and harassed cast and crew members. While Mr. Fraser was known to have an explosive temper, he was particularly aggressive and volatile when it came to berating female producers.”
The suit also alleges that Fraser “frequently made sexually inappropriate comments while on the set of ‘Home & Family’. On multiple occasions, Mr. Fraser would make sexually lewd comments about attractive female guests while speaking to Mr. Steines through his earpiece during the filming of the show. For instance, when Mr. Steines interviewed young attractive female guests, Mr. Fraser would ask, ‘Can you see up her skirt (or down her shirt) from there?’ or ‘Wouldn’t you love to turn her around and bend her over and do her from behind?’ He would also say other degrading and offensive things like, ‘I bet she would like to take you to dinner, if you know what I mean.’ Mr. Steines was appalled at Mr. Fraser’s lewd, sexist, and misogynistic behaviour.”
In late May, Hallmark Channel abruptly announced it had “parted ways” with Steines, who had been the host of “Home & Family” since the show’s premiere in 2012. The following day, a rep for Steines responded to the unusual parting of ways.
“The network’s given explanation for making the change was ‘creative reasons’; there were no other reasons given,” said the rep, adding that Steines had no idea he had “parted ways” with the show when he showed up for work that day. “We had had nothing but positive reviews and feedback from Hallmark for the entirety of the time he has been on the show including this year.”
Hallmark Channel later issued a statement, which read: “Shows evolve and change all the time. Mark has been an instrumental part of Home & Family for the past 6 years, and we are extremely grateful for his incredible work and leadership. We truly wish Mark all the best in his future endeavours.” Steines was subsequently replaced by Cameron Mathison.
You can read Steines’ complaint right here.