Sensational accusations of “booze, brawls and babes” in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former station account exec against WFAN New York may be raising concerns among the station’s advertisers. On Friday, Entercom New York market manager Susan Larkin sent an email to the station’s clients addressing the story that was front page news in the New York tabloids last week. The company has also put veteran on-air talent Joe Benigno, the subject of the suit, on leave.
Former WFAN ad sales executive Laura Lockwood filed a $5 million suit in Brooklyn Civil Court, claiming Benigno pressured her to join him for group sex with his wife and a prostitute, jeopardizing her career after she refused. The station was owned by CBS Radio during her 2006-to-2017 tenure.
In the memo, Larkin notes that Lockwood was “discharged” in 2017 and the “troubling allegations” enumerated in her lawsuit were “not raised during Lockwood’s employment, but were made through this lawsuit seeking millions in compensatory damages.”
Larkin’s main point to the station’s advertisers is that the lurid accusations described in Lockwood’s suit “in no way represent WFAN and our values. They describe an organization that is quite different from the one I am honored to be part of every day, where I am proud to be a woman in a leadership role, and work collaboratively in the best interests of our community.”
Of course Entercom is taking the suit seriously, and looking into all of the allegations, Larkin adds. Then in an about face to a statement an Entercom spokesperson gave to the New York Post that Benigno will be back on the air Monday (July 23), Larkin’s memo says the host “initially will be on leave while we work through this matter carefully, to avoid any potential distraction from the great sports talk content our listeners, advertisers and community expect us to deliver each day.”
Benigno co-hosts a daily WFAN show with Evan Roberts from 10am-1pm. Roberts addressed the lawsuit when he opened last Thursday’s show by saying he was aware of the suit — but couldn’t comment on it, the Post reports.
Benigno, Lockwood claims, showed her nude photographs of his wife with a prostitute and asked Lockwood to join them for sex, as Inside Radio reported this week. 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.
Entercom said it will fight the allegations made by Lockwood, while Benigno’s lawyer, Arthur Aidala, said he will vigorously defend the claims so that “Joe’s good name is cleared. He’s denying everything she alleged. [Joe] never showed a naked picture of his wife. That’s absolutely insane. He never propositioned her in any way, shape or form.”