7:58am PT by Eriq Gardner
Fox News Says Andrea Tantaros Wants Lawsuit in Open Court to Sell Books
Fox News is again urging a judge to send Andrea Tantaros' claims of suffering sexual harassment to arbitration. On Friday, the cable news network took its last opportunity to make written arguments on the subject of arbitration and slammed its former host as a plaintiff who "craves the spotlight of a public courtroom so she can get her picture in the paper yet again and hawk some copies of her book."
Tantaros demands tens of millions of dollars after allegedly being subjected to demeaning comments from Roger Ailes. She's also targeting Ailes' replacement Bill Shine, evp of legal affairs Dianne Brandi, evp of corporate communications Irena Briganti and evp of programming and development Suzanne Scott for allegedly retaliating against her by sidelining her and planting unflattering stories in the press. In the complaint, she asserts Fox News "operated like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny."
After Fox News called her an "opportunist" in its original motion for arbitration, Tantaros argued the arbitration agreement didn't include unexpected tortuous behavior like harassment or retaliation. She also submitted an affidavit from a psychologist who heard Tantaros complain about Ailes and others in therapy sessions in 2014. Before her opposition to arbitration was filed, Tantaros' attorney Judd Burstein circulated the affidavit to certain reporters.
Fox News is now pointing this out to the judge as further evidence that what Tantaros really craves is the spotlight.
"The affidavit is completely irrelevant to this Motion, as demonstrated by the fact that it is not cited even once in the 'Argument' section of her memorandum of law," states Fox News' reply brief. "As Plaintiff hoped, however, her ploy generated another firestorm of publicity, including her appearance on Good Morning America, with her counsel at her side, to discuss her claims against Fox News, while she was still employed by Fox News."
The defendant adds, "But this is a Court of law, not a circus to showcase Plaintiff’s publicity stunts. This Court should compel Plaintiff to honor her contractual obligation to arbitrate in confidence all claims arising from or relating to her employment by Fox News."
Fox News again emphasizes the specific language of her employment agreements, which mandate arbitration for "any controversy, claim or dispute arising out of or relating to this Agreement or your employment," and tells the judge that there's no legal authority that harassment isn't covered, and to the contrary, an appeals court has ruled otherwise. It's argued that the only grounds for invalidating the arbitration agreement would be a contention that Tantaros was fraudulently induced into it. Tantaros is not making such an argument.
Instead, Tantaros has theorized that Fox can't compel arbitration because it first allegedly breached the contract's confidentiality clause by leaking information about her.
Linda Goldstein at Dechert, attorney for the defendants, responds, "That theory is tailor-made for Plaintiff and her counsel, for it licenses them to wage a media war in violation of the Agreement’s confidentiality provision while also either (i) muzzling Defendants’ response, lest they risk losing their confidential arbitration forum or (ii) provoking Defendants to respond, thereby waiving their confidential arbitration forum. This Court should reject that self-serving theory, which has no legal or logical support."
Elsewhere in the brief, Fox News picks up on a suggestion made in Tantaros' opposition that she would consent to discontinue her legal action against Fox News so as to proceed against the individuals in open court.
Fox News says the offer is "astonishing" and with a nod to the fact that it would be indemnifying Ailes, Shine, Brandi, Briganti, and Scott, adds it's "a cynical acknowledgment that Fox News's pocketbook will still be on the line, even if it is no longer a party to this case."