'Extra' Host A.J. Calloway's Accusers Speak: "I Definitely Felt I Couldn't Be the Only One"
The show's 14-year veteran, now accused by six women of sexual assault and misconduct, is suspended by Warner Bros. Television as one alleged victim asks, "How has this transpired for so long and there wasn't any consequence?"
Jeannie Delgado says she met Extra host A.J. Calloway on a flight from Newark to Los Angeles in 2008. They became friendly, and in December 2008, Calloway invited her to a Christmas party at his house in New Jersey. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, so she didn't hesitate when she was invited to another gathering in February 2009.
That night, there was a freezing rain and the roads were icing up. Delgado had a front-wheel-drive vehicle, and she was worried about getting home, especially since the Extra host's capacious house was on a steep road. Calloway offered her a guest room.
"I thought it was not a big deal," says Delgado, who works in the aviation industry. "I'm thinking this is the guest room. It turned out to be his bedroom. He closed the door behind him. He basically closed the door, locked it and tried to kiss me. I was like, 'No, no, no.' Then he went for my pants. He flipped me over, grabbed my hands, held them behind my back." Holding both her hands in one of his, she says, he used his free hand to pull off her pants. "I'm 5-foot-2, 110 pounds," she says. "He's 6-foot-4, and I don't know how much he weighs. He proceeded to rape me. When I tried to get up, he pulled me back down and bear-hugged me. That was for hours. I lay there crying the whole time. When the sun came up, he raped me again." (Calloway, via an attorney, denies all allegations of misconduct.)
The next day, Delgado says, she drove herself home. On the way, she told the man she was dating what had happened, but she felt he blamed her for the encounter, so she "didn't tell anyone else" for years. (THR has reviewed recent texts from the former boyfriend acknowledging that he was told about the incident when it occurred.)
Delgado says her memories haunted her. A few months ago, amid the deluge of media coverage of sexual assault allegations in the entertainment industry, a curious Delgado searched "A.J. Calloway" online and found a THR story from June about his alleged 2006 sexual assault of author and activist Sil Lai Abrams. (Calloway was arrested in connection with the Abrams incident, but the case was dismissed on a procedural ground. Calloway denied any misconduct.) At that point, Delgado says, "I had a full-on panic attack." She finally went to the police in West Orange, New Jersey, on Dec. 24 and filed a complaint for aggravated sexual assault. (The West Orange police chief confirms to THR a complaint was filed that day.)
In response to the queries about Calloway's conduct, Warner Bros. Television, which produces Extra, said Feb. 9 that the host had been suspended. The studio said that "upon becoming aware of allegations" against Calloway, it had begun an internal review that found "nothing to suggest that Mr. Calloway has ever engaged in workplace misconduct." But, Warners added, "in light of additional allegations brought to our attention, we are expanding our ongoing inquiries."
Following Calloway's suspension, his attorney, Lisa E. Davis, says in a statement, “These allegations are completely false. Mr. Calloway has never sexually assaulted anyone and is devastated that he is being falsely accused of such terrible conduct. Throughout his career, Mr. Calloway has been a tireless advocate for community empowerment and equality and justice for all people regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or gender expression.”
It is unclear when Warners initiated a review. When THR first published Abrams' assault allegation in June, the studio did not return calls requesting comment. In early January, the Daily Beast published assault allegations from two more women, both using pseudonyms. (One of the women is Delgado, who has now decided to go on the record and tell her full story.) Again, Calloway denied the claims. Initially, Warners responded, "A.J. issued a personal statement last year which is public and available for your use." But with negative reaction building online, the studio issued its own statement: "We take allegations made against our employees seriously and investigate appropriately. To date, we have not received a complaint about A.J. Calloway and his work on Extra." The studio did not say then that it had initiated an investigation.
Despite Warners' assertion that it had not received a complaint about Calloway's work on Extra, it had heard from Abrams while Calloway was on Extra's payroll. Abrams followed up her on-the-record account in June with a July letter to Warners spokesman Blake Bryant. She again asked for a response, but the studio made no reply. (Warner Bros. claims Bryant never received the email, though THR has verified that it was addressed to him and sent.)
Pasadena-based employment attorney Ann Fromholz says if an allegation arises against an employee that does not specifically involve workplace conduct, an employer is not required to investigate. But she says the prudent course, "particularly in this climate, is to start some sort of an investigation and … try to determine at the very least if the alleged conduct is related to the workplace." If the company knew or should have known of a potential problem, she says, any misconduct that might have occurred while an employee was on the job — contact with a victim initiated while that staffer was on the clock or traveling on business, for example — could open the door to liability.
In the months following the June publication of Abrams' allegation against Calloway, THR has talked to five more women — including Delgado and the woman who was quoted anonymously in the Daily Beast story — who allege that they, too, were sexually assaulted. The earliest account dates to 2003; the most recent was in 2013. Two of the women, Abrams and Delgado, have reported Calloway to the police in New York and New Jersey, respectively. A third, who wishes to remain anonymous, made a claim in California, and THR has confirmed that the case is open and active. This woman shared evidence with THR that she sought a medical exam in connection with an alleged sexual assault several years ago after what she says was an encounter with Calloway.
Some of the accusers describe attacks that have certain common elements: Four say Calloway got them into a hotel room or bedroom and assaulted them; two say he wrested away their phones. In an additional statement to THR, Calloway's attorney says: "The Hollywood Reporter’s decision to publicize these vague, unsubstantiated and mostly anonymous allegations – without providing Mr. Calloway with the details and information necessary to meaningfully respond to them – is thoughtless and rash. However, even with the limited information The Hollywood Reporter did provide to us about these allegations, Mr. Calloway can state unequivocally that these allegations are implausible and did not happen. Mr. Calloway will not sit idly by as these false and baseless allegations cause further harm to his family, career and reputation and looks forward to clearing his name.”
Calloway, 44, now a married father of three young children, has been on Extra since 2005, starting as a special correspondent. He has interviewed an array of celebrities from Beyonce to Oprah, from Justin Timberlake to Prince. Before joining Extra, which airs on NBCUniversal-owned stations and is moving to Fox in the fall, Calloway spent five years as the host of 106 & Park on BET. According to his bio on the Extra website, Calloway has created his own foundation to offer college scholarships. He also speaks to youth around the country about the negative effects of drugs, alcohol and unprotected sex. The women interviewed for this story all say he used no protection during their alleged assaults.
"I definitely felt I couldn't be the only one," Daisy says. She has asked THR not to use her real name. She confided the details of her story a few years after the incident to a friend, whom THR has interviewed and who confirms she was told of the encounter.
In 2003, Daisy was barely 19 and went to an L.A. club with a couple of girlfriends. Calloway was there, and one of Daisy's friends spotted him and showed interest. He approached and started chatting, but he wasn't focusing on the young woman who was hoping to attract his attention. "I definitely felt his energy in my direction," Daisy remembers.
When the evening broke up, her friend drove Calloway to his hotel in West Hollywood, and he offered to take Daisy home from there. To her horror, her friend agreed. "I'm giving her the look, the girl look, and she's oblivious," Daisy remembers. "I'm having that heavy gut feeling. But I didn't want to be mean. I didn't want to be a bitch. I was too nice." She got out of the car, and he told her his keys were upstairs. "I said, 'I'll be right here.' He said, 'You can't wait here. It's dark. It's cold.' He looks at me and says, 'I'm not going to do anything to you.' And again I'm having that feeling, and I went against it because I didn't want to be difficult."
She says he attacked as soon as she entered the room. "He grabbed me, very forceful. I tried pushing him away. I fought him. He was too strong. … He took the phone out of the wall. He tossed my phone and purse across the room. It was just never-ending. He'd be in me, and I was able to get him out of me, off of me, but he was too strong. … He kept yelling, 'You don't want me!' At a certain point I gave up. That's the part that haunts me the most. I was just crying."
Daisy cries as she tells the story. Eventually, she says, he took her home. "I was quiet the whole time. I didn't say anything to anybody for a long time."
For Nancy — another pseudonym — the meeting with Calloway was in 2013 at a restaurant where she worked. She recognized him from TV. He asked her out a couple of times, and she passed, but at one point, she agreed to get together late one afternoon. When she arrived, she says, he cut things surprisingly short, offering to drive her home. But once in the car, he didn't take her home. She became anxious as she realized he was heading in the wrong direction. Then, she says, he took her phone. "It was sort of in a playful way," she says. "Never did I think he was going to do what he ended up doing."
He drove to his house and immediately went upstairs, saying he wanted to show her around, she says. She followed as he went into a bedroom, focused on getting her phone back. "I started to move toward him, and he just grabbed me and pushed me down on the bed," she says. She says she told him to stop, but she quickly realized she was overpowered. "I could not move my arms," she says. Once done sexually assaulting her, he threw her phone on the bed, she says. Then he drove her home.
Nancy says it took a long time to acknowledge to herself what had happened. And she notes the episode took a heavy toll on her emotionally. She's still in therapy. But she eventually told her boyfriend, and he repeatedly googled Calloway's name, found Abrams' story and contacted THR in July. It took Nancy months to overcome her fear and tell her story. Having learned that there were several other accusers and allegations going back more than 15 years, she couldn't help but wonder: "How has this transpired for so long and there wasn't any consequence?" And she wondered why Calloway was still hosting on Extra as these allegations kept emerging.
Abrams has the same question: "So many people have commented online that A.J. doesn't seem like the type who would attack anyone because his public persona on Extra is that he is a 'safe' family man."
But Abrams doesn't believe Calloway is safe. And some of his alleged victims have told Abrams that his continued presence as a television host worked to disarm them. "The majority of women who have told me they were sexually assaulted by A.J. say they were attacked after he was arrested for assaulting me," she says. "I cringe to think about other potential victims that [may] emerge."
KIM MASTERS is editor-at-large of The Hollywood Reporter.
This story was updated with a comment from Warner Bros. about an email to its spokesperson.
This story first appeared in the Feb. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.