In a sensational story that is topping the news in the New York tabloids, Joe Benigno, midday host at Entercom sports “The Fan” WFAN (660, 101.9) NYC, has been hit with a bombshell sexual harassment lawsuit by a former station account exec.
Lauren Lockwood has filed a $5 million suit in Brooklyn Civil Court, claiming Benigno pressed her to join him for group sex with his wife and a prostitute, and jeopardizing her career after she refused. “Booze, brawls and babes fueled an ‘anything goes’ frat house atmosphere at WFAN,” writes Janon Fisher in a front-page story in the Daily News. The New York Post reports, “WFAN was run like a frat house, with drinking by employees starting as early as 10am and executives condoning buying prostitutes for ad clients.”
Benigno, Lockwood claims, showed her nude photographs of his wife with a prostitute and asked Lockwood to join them for sex. The 39-page suit says Benigno would routinely rank women in the office based on their appearance and carried on an affair with a female sales assistant for a number of years.
“Joe categorically denies the allegations,” Benigno’s agent Mark Lepselter told the Daily News. “My father once told me on any story, always consider the source and those who live in glass houses. We’re more than prepared to handle the situation if need be.”
The suit also names CBS Radio, which owned the station at the time of the alleged occurrences; Lockwood’s superior, Sean Argaman; another ad executive, Mark Zukerman; and several unnamed employees, according to the Post. Lockwood worked at the high-profile sports station from 2006 to July 2017, before it was acquired by Entercom as part of its merger with CBS Radio.
One of the instances referenced in the suit alleges that a male account executive paid $1,300 for two prostitutes on his own credit card and was seeking reimbursement from the company. The party atmosphere was rampant within the building, Lockwood claims. “Employees were permitted to drink wine and beer in their office cubicles and engage in flip cup drinking games,” she said in the suit.
The suit says bar bills routinely ran as high as $4,000 at events where account executives would host clients, which she says is twice what was allowed under company policy. The suit also states that management “knew and permitted the practice of taking prospective clients to strip clubs, especially during Yankee spring training trips,” the Post reported. Argaman allegedly footed the bill for an expensive trip to a strip club for station clients with a company credit card, court documents allege.
Lockwood said she was suspended and eventually fired after a brawl broke out at a viewing party for the Floyd Merriweather-Conor McGregor bout last July. According to the suit, Lockwood brought a former employee with her to the party, when a fight ensued between her guest and two current employees. During the scuffle, which she said was videotaped, Lockwood said she was punched in the face and pushed to the ground as she attempted to break up the fight. Lockwood said she was the only employee suspended the day following the fracas for “acting erratically and reprimanded for inviting the former staffer into the sports suite,” she said in the suit, according to the Daily News. Lockwood said she was fired by Argaman a week later and claims her former managers have interfered with her getting another job.
An Entercom spokesperson told the Post that the company does not comment on pending litigation but it does intend to “defend the company vigorously.”
Former employees at WFAN are countering the references that the station ran like a frat house. Sid Rosenberg and Bernie McGuirk, now together in mornings at Cumulus Media talk WABC (770), both worked at “The Fan” in the past. “All I’m going to say is, the way they describe WFAN in these articles, with all the boozing and this stuff going on in the workplace [wasn’t my experience],” Rosenberg said on Thursday’s morning show. “What people did on their own — whether it was on trips, in their spare time, that’s one thing. But the way they describe FAN in these local columns, they really make it sound like you go into work in the morning, there’s a rolling bar and a couple of strippers. And it’s nothing like that.”
The Post says Benigno’s partner Evan Roberts addressed the situation on WFAN today as well.
“There’s a big story out there,” he said. “I am aware of it. But as you probably have guessed if you used your brain, I cannot talk about it. It’s a story that involves the courts and the legal process. I do know the company is dealing with it, and I can’t add anything personally. … I’m not going to play stupid. We’re not all idiots. We understand that’s out there. I cannot talk about it.”
Roberts did the show without Benigno today and is he listed solo on the schedule throughout the week.