CBS3 anchor Alycia Lane says she is "mortified" over a gossip item in yesterday's New York Post that she had sent private e-mails and suggestive "bikini" photos to NFL Network anchor Rich Eisen, which were intercepted by his wife.
The story, which Lane said was not what it appeared, quickly became the talk of a celebrity-starved town and even mushroomed into national fodder as scandal-sniffing bloggers inveighed against Lane.
In an exclusive interview yesterday with The Inquirer, Lane insisted she was not a home-wrecker. The photos were simply part of "harmless" banter between "two old friends," and not an attempt to entice the Los Angeles-based Eisen or break up his nearly four-year marriage to former Fox and ABC sports reporter Suzy Shuster. She said she knew he was married.
"I don't want to hurt his marriage," said Lane, 34, whose second divorce was recently final. "I hope love comes to me. I'm not looking for it with a married man. I have been the married girl who was cheated on."
"This cast me as something I am not at all."
The Post, quoting an unnamed source, reported that Shuster had e-mailed Lane that she had seen the e-mails and photos. "Boy, do you look amazing in a bikini . . . congrats! Whatever you're doing, (Pilates? yoga?) keep doing it - it's working for you. Anyway, sorry but those seven e-mails you sent to my husband, Rich, well, oops, they came to the e-mail address we both use from time to time, but no worries, I'll forward the beach shots as well as the ones of you dancing with your friends on to his main address. Do you have it?"
Shuster also accused Lane of "trying so hard to get his attention. I mean, what better way to get a guy's attention than with skin!"
Lane described the photos as "nothing salacious" - "fun, normal, scrunched-together" beach shots that included her and her female friends wearing bikini tops and dancing in a club during a recent vacation. Lane said she captioned the photos to Eisen over the phone as she e-mailed them in seven separate files. None of the e-mails contained text. Lane declined to provide copies of the photos, saying they were not supposed to be made public.
The Post article, which misidentified Lane's station as WKYW, did not say how it obtained the e-mail, which Lane said Shuster sent her on April 16. The Post also did not disclose the contents of Lane's e-mails to Eisen, or show the photos, beyond describing them as "saucy."
Lane said "the minute" she opened Shuster's e-mail on April 18, "I wrote her back. I felt so badly. I was telling her, 'Oh, my God. I think you're misconstruing this. [Rich and I] are friends and I don't think you know that. This is absolutely innocent. Please, let me put your mind at ease. . . . I would never want to inflict that on you.' "
Lane said she and Eisen had corresponded frequently since they met nearly 10 years ago when she worked at a local station in New York and Eisen worked in Bristol, Conn., for ESPN. "There was never any more than friendship," said Lane, who said she last saw him at the media cafeteria during Super Bowl week in Jacksonville, Fla., in February 2005.
It became apparent to Lane after she received Shuster's e-mail that Eisen had never mentioned their acquaintance to his wife.
She said she and Eisen last spoke Monday, after the Post contacted her; she chose to decline comment to the paper. "He was apologetic beyond belief," Lane said of Eisen, 37. "He apologized profusely for any strain this is going to cause me."
Eisen did not return a call placed to his office yesterday; Shuster could not be reached. CBS3 did not plan to mention the dust-up on the air, a spokeswoman said. Lane acknowledged that she and the station had received viewer complaints about the Post item.
The station issued a statement from Lane that read: "Rich Eisen and I have been good friends for almost 10 years and our relationship has always been purely platonic. We regularly exchange e-mails and photos. It's unfortunate that there was a misunderstanding over some harmless pictures of myself and my friends on vacation that I shared with him."
NBC10 and 6ABC did not allude to it last night.
A Long Island native, Lane arrived in Philadelphia from Miami in late 2003 to partner with Larry Mendte at 6 and 11 p.m. The newscasts rose from third place to second.
Lane went under the microscope - by her own choosing. She was divorcing her first husband when she appeared on camera - twice - to confide in "Dr. Phil" McGraw in May 2004. Those two newscasts were the station's highest-rated shows for that "sweeps." She went public with her May 2005 marriage to a North Carolina businessman; she chose not to talk about how it quickly fell apart.
Lane also made Page Six a year ago when she flew to Monaco to interview Prince Albert on the 50th anniversary of Princess Grace's wedding. The Post wrote that Lane danced with the prince at a party, intimating hanky-panky. Lane said she told Page Six that her cameraman was present during the party, during which many women also danced with the prince. Lane said Page Six ran with the item nonetheless.
"I think unfortunately it's the nature of being a public figure," Lane said yesterday. "I really and truly want to be known as a journalist. I didn't get into journalism to be part of a gossip column - never in a million years."