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Andrea Tantaros, the former Fox News star, is aiming to move forward in a lawsuit that alleges her former employer electronically surveilled and harassed her. In a proposed amended complaint filed Monday, she includes new allegations, such as how Fox News had a closed-circuit television network that allowed its former chief Roger Ailes to monitor offices, including ones where most Fox female talent disrobed daily.
“There was also a bi-annual trunk show in the Spring and Fall conducted by Fox’s wardrobe department,” states the amended complaint. “The trunk show was held in empty Fox offices and female talent was expected to disrobe down to their undergarments to try on new on-air dresses for the next season, without even the benefit of a curtain. The dresses were pre-selected for the women by the wardrobe department before their arrival; pants were not an option. Upon information and belief, Ailes was recording female employees disrobe without their consent in their offices and during the bi-annual trunk show.”
The amended complaint is the latest in a nine-month-old lawsuit with messy origins.
In New York state court, Tantaros first sued for alleged retaliation in August 2016. But a judge then ruled her complaint alleging the network “operated like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult” was covered under the arbitration clause of her employment contract. So Tantaros next tried in April 2017 a second lawsuit in federal court alleging she was victim to torturing via hacking and social media stalking. At the time, she was represented by attorney Judd Burstein, who is now facing the possibility of sanctions after filing a complaint that included word of social media “sock-puppet” accounts that Fox characterized as an “outright hoax.”
In the last few months, Tantaros has been represented by new attorneys at Morgan Lewis, who were threatened by Fox News for participating in the case.
On Monday, Morgan Lewis attorney Christopher Parlo told the judge in a letter that the firm will no longer be Tantaros’ counsel but is nevertheless assisting her in the transition to representing herself. Tantaros, now operating pro se, is seeking the judge’s permission for an amended complaint.
The complaint, attached as an exhibit (seen in full below), puts heavy emphasis on “The Black Room,” the notorious surveillance operation that Ailes established. It’s been written about extensively in the media, and Tantaros quotes some of the reporting. She also includes some new word about the scope of the federal investigation of Fox, which The Hollywood Reporter first revealed.
“Fox News is currently under federal investigation by the United States Justice Department into how multiple sexual harassment settlements were made to certain female employees over many years,” states the amended complaint. “The federal probe has also expanded to include, not only the structure of the payments, but whether intimidation tactics like the ones at the crux of this complaint, were used against Fox News employees.”
As to those alleged intimidation tactics, which she explicitly connects to the Harvey Weinstein scandal (“In point of fact, Weinstein followed Ailes’ playbook almost to the letter…”), Tantaros says Fox is attempting to cloak it all in arbitration and that Fox’s behavior is “ongoing as Defendants continue to torture and attempt to surveil Ms. Tantaros.”
Tantaros’ story of being a victim largely starts on Aug. 6, 2015, when she says Fox News asked select employees, including Tantaros, to bring their personal laptops to participate in social media sessions during the presidential debate.
“Ms. Tantaros had never brought her personal laptop to Fox News before and only used the laptop at her apartment in New York City,” she states in her complaint. “To format the laptops for the Live Tweet Session, Tantaros was asked to turn over her laptop to the IT and digital team to ensure that it was ‘formatted properly’ and ready to go for this event. For roughly over one hour the device was out of her sight and control. The significance of this date is that just two days prior, Ailes had flagrantly and publicly sexually harassed Tantaros on Aug. 4, 2015, when she was walking to a taping of the program Hannity with another Fox News Contributor. Ailes, in conversation with another Fox anchor, looked Tantaros up and down and smirked, ‘We need to get you a tighter dress.’”
Tantaros says a forensic investigation later found malware placed on her laptop. She also says that after being suspended for making formal complaints of harassment in the workplace (Fox News has instead alleged that a book project was the core of the dispute), Fox attempted to wipe her work blackberry. She adds that a forensic analysis also concluded that “Fox was using an outdated operating version of the Blackberry that enabled them to turn on the microphone and camera of the device at will without the knowledge or consent of the person who had the Blackberry in his or her possession.”
The amended lawsuit then goes into the way she — and others — were allegedly physically surveilled by Ailes’ Fox News before tackling again the topic of “fake websites, sock puppetry and digital hit men.”
In particular, a main subject of Tantaros’ concern is the tech entrepreneur Pete Snyder, also a paid Fox News contributor who once ran for lieutenant governor of Virginia.
“It was widely known among Washington, DC beltway political insiders that Snyder’s then-company NMS engaged in social media influence campaigns using hundreds of thousands of fake social media profiles,” states the complaint. “For example, these campaigns serve many purposes: they can be used to promote a film or a movie, or they can be used to persuade or dissuade viewers or consumers from purchasing a product, or, in his work for Fox News, these campaigns can use hundreds of thousands of manufactured or purchased social media accounts to smear, sexualize, discredit or defame a perceived enemy or target of the network. With one order, Snyder can enlist thousands of contracted individuals, bots…to post content at whomever is in control of the account’s direction, or accounts that real people like Daniel Wayne Block create, but allow companies such as NMS, now Disruptor, or Fox News allow access to monetize their accounts.”
In response to the original lawsuit and comments to the press through a spokesperson, Snyder has said he sold the company and has denied any efforts on Fox’s or Ailes’ behalf, but Tantaros alleges this is misleading and that the company has an “active contract” with Fox News, and further, that Snyder has privately disclosed to her that he still is the network’s “contracted cyber hit man.”
Tantaros again speaks of the “highly sexual or grossly offensive posts” she’s witnessed on her social media accounts in alleged retaliation of her outspokenness about being a victim and goes into some recent examples, too.
“Altering photos and shopping unflattering pictures of Fox News targets is commonplace and is still being done to this day to Ms. Tantaros,” states the complaint. “A simple Google search will pull up manipulated images of Tantaros or photos of overweight or out of shape women who are not Ms. Tantaros, nor do they look anything like Tantaros, but the photos are deliberately tagged with her name. Upon information and belief, these photoshopped images and pictures were posted and circulated by Fox News, but can only be exposed during a rigorous discovery process of the Murdoch media medusa, much like the genesis of the sock puppetry and fake websites.”
Tantaros adds that since her departure, she’s seen paid adds taken out on websites like Breitbart.com with her picture captioned, “Remember her? Click here to see what she looks like now!”
“Ms. Tantaros is not alone,” she says. “A simple Google search of women who have come forward with sexual harassment allegations against Ailes or men at Fox News have a flurry of negative blog posts about them.”
Fox News responds that it has “moved for sanctions against the lawyer who filed Andrea Tantaros’ original lawsuit and he has since withdrawn. None of the four lawyers currently representing Tantaros in the action signed her new complaint, which she purports to have written herself. Her outlandish claims lack any factual basis.”
Here is the full amended complaint:
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