Judge Won't Let Ex-Fox News Star Keep Secret Her Feminism Book Was Ghostwritten by a Man

A judge rejects Andrea Tantaros' argument that professional jeopardy overcomes a presumption of access to judicial documents.
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Andrea Tantaros

A New York federal judge has decided to lift the veil from a case captioned as [Under Seal] v. [Under Seal]. It turns out that Michael Krechmer is suing former Fox News personality Andrea Tantaros for allegedly breaching an agreement pertaining to his ghostwriting services on her book Tied Up in Knots.

Here's how the book is described on Amazon:

"Fifty years after Betty Friedan unveiled The Feminine Mystique, relations between men and women in America have never been more dysfunctional. If women are more liberated than ever before, why aren't they happier? In this shocking, funny, and bluntly honest tour of today’s gender discontents, Andrea Tantaros, one of Fox News' most popular and outspoken stars, exposes how the rightful feminist pursuit of equality went too far, and how the unintended pitfalls of that power trade have made women (and men!) miserable."

Krechmer filed his lawsuit in in October 2016, and amazingly, it's only coming to light now. There's a reason for this.

According to an opinion and order from U.S. District Court Judge Katherine Forrest on Thursday, Krechmer and Tantaros entered into a collaboration agreement in May 2015. The deal included a confidentiality provision. Krechmer alleges that a couple months later, the two agreed to terminate the agreement in favor of a new "Ghostwriting Agreement," where he'd be paid a flat fee of $150,000.

But the latter was an oral deal. Tantaros allegedly did not want to negotiate a deal with Krechmer's agent because she "feared" it would "cause her editor to discover that she was not writing the book herself" and the book's publisher, Harper Collins, "would cancel the book if they discovered that there were any negative issues in the writing process, particularly since she was already running more than two years behind schedule."

Tantaros, who is separately suing Fox News for discrimination and harassment in non-connected cases, also allegedly feared she would "suffer professional repercussions and personal humiliation if her colleagues at Fox News discovered that the publication agreement with Harper Collins was cancelled."

Krechmer says he's only been paid $30,000 for his work, and that after requesting full payment, Tantaros emailed him to demand he sign a non-disclosure agreement. (Although this case is unconnected to the Fox News ones, her attorney there has griped at how the network wanted to hush things up in arbitration. Tantaros is also alleging that she was damaged by fake social media accounts.) Krechmer believes the confidentiality clause of the original agreement is no longer binding. He's also demanding copyright on the book through his lawsuit.

The reason why this has been kept secret is that soon after Krechmer quietly brought the lawsuit, Tantaros moved for a preliminary injunction prohibiting him from violating the confidentiality provision during the pendency of a sealing order. Tantaros argued her career would be seriously jeopardized if word got out that he was the actual author of Tied Up in Knots.

That's not good enough for the judge.

"A possibility of future adverse impact on employment or the celebrity status of a party is not a 'higher value' sufficient to overcome the presumption of access to judicial documents," writes Forrest.

She later adds, "The details of the working relationship and arrangement between the parties lie at the very heart of the litigation. If the public is to understand the nature of the dispute and the reasons for the court’s rulings, access to the judicial documents is essential. That it is the plaintiff, and not the defendants, who originally invoked the sealing power of the Court is irrelevant in ascertaining the public’s right of access. Hence, given the nature of the dispute and defendant’s failure to demonstrate specific instances of particular harm, the public’s right of access has not been overcome."

Here's full opinion.

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