Joe Benigno returned to WFAN on Monday to co-host the midday show with Evan Roberts, nearly two months after he was placed on leave in the wake of a civil lawsuit that accuses him of sexually harassing a former CBS Radio co-worker.
“The outpouring of support has been off the charts,” Benigno said in the show’s opening. “Obviously this hasn’t been an easy time for me at all. I can’t comment on any of this, the lawsuit or anything like that. I just want to thank everybody. My wife, who has been behind me the whole time.”
Benigno has been off the air since late July.
He also thanked Entercom, his agent Mark Lepselter, WFAN vice president of programming Mark Chernoff and callers who reached out to him.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself,” Benigno said. “You do a lot of self searching. I played a lot of golf, I have to admit that, which helped me quite a bit.
“One of the things l learned the most is how lucky I am to be a part of this station, this show.”
Former CBS Radio sales executive Lauren Lockwood, who was fired in July 2017, accused CBS Radio in a lawsuit filed in mid-July 2018 of fostering an environment in which employees drank alcohol while working and said Benigno spoke with her regularly about inappropriate sexual topics.
“As much as Joe loves golf, it’s been a tough better part of two months,” said Lepselter, Benigno’s agent, who has represented him through the process along with attorney Arthur Aidala. “It’s a lot of soul-searching.
“I said from Day One that we would figure this out, that if there wasn’t any wrongdoing my goal was to help afford Joe the opportunity to come back and restore his good name. That’s all I’ve been focused on.”
Lepselter added, “It’s been a tough time for him, his wife, his kids, and I think Joe is a very good guy who comes from a different time, a different generation . . . We play in a different world today, but I always felt that it would be best for all parties to wait until there was some clarity with regard to the facts.”
The 39-page lawsuit, which seeks $5 million in damages, says Lockwood worked for CBS Radio from 2006 until July 2017 when she was fired following a physical altercation between her and other employees during an event at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
Lockwood accuses Benigno, 64, of talking about his sexual experiences and fantasies, ranking female co-workers by their physical appearances and discussing his alleged sexual relationship with another co-worker.
A spokeswoman for Entercom, WFAN’s parent company, said, “WFAN has determined that it is appropriate for Joe Benigno to return to the air. While we continue to vigorously defend ourselves in the appropriate legal forum, WFAN remains focused on providing great sports content for our listeners, advertisers and community.”
“It’s great to be back and talking sports,” Benigno said. “The Sam Darnold era starts tonight. I guess I couldn’t be back on a better day."
Lepselter dismissed the notion that Benigno’s return might be a short-term, face-saving gesture. His contract runs through 2020, and he intends to complete it.
“Never been any other plan on our side,” Lepselter said. “This is not some window-dressing, sign-a-one-day-contract-and-adios thing.”
Lepselter declined to comment on any aspect of the lawsuit itself.
With Jim Baumbach