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Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros has moved forward in filing a lawsuit against Fox News and its ex-chief Roger Ailes for alleged sexual harassment. She didn’t stop there. Also named as defendants in a complaint lodged in New York Supreme Court is Ailes‘ replacement Bill Shine, vp legal affairs Dianne Brandi, vp corporate communications Irena Briganti and executive vp programming and development Suzanne Scott.
In a lawsuit that’s dripping with salacious detail including allegations hurled at non-defendants like Bill O’Reilly, Tantaros is demanding tens of millions of dollars in damages over her experiences at a cable news network she asserts “operated like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny.”
“However this Complaint is not just about Ailes,” the complaint adds. “For Ailes did not act alone. He may have been the primary culprit, but his actions were condoned by his most senior lieutenants, who engaged in a concerted effort to silence Tantaros by threats, humiliation, and retaliation.”
In reaction to the lawsuit (see in full below), a Fox News spokesperson said the network couldn’t comment on pending litigation.
According to the plaintiff, Ailes subjected Tantaros to repeated harassment beginning in the late summer of 2014, about three years after she signed a contract to serve as a co-host of the afternoon show The Five. Even before that time, she claims that she was instructed to wear clothes that showed off her legs and was forced to strip down in front of the network’s wardrobe personnel, but Tantaros asserts that Ailes later escalated his misbehavior. Ailes would demand she turn around so he could get a better look at her body, states the lawsuit, and would make comments like, “I bet you look good in a bikini.”
Ailes also allegedly subjected Tantaros to inappropriate comments about other stars working at the network. The head of the network is said to have questioned whether Greg Gutfeld was gay, whether Kimberly Guilfoyle and Eric Bolling were sleeping together and commented that Maria Bartiromo had gotten fat.
After she rebuffed advances like a request for a hug, Tantaros claims she was removed from The Five to the “daytime graveyard time of Noon,” where she worked on the show Outnumbered. The plaintiff says the move was a “retaliatory demotion.”
Tantaros says she suffered other indignities.
For example, although the lawsuit doesn’t name Bill O’Reilly as a defendant, Tantaros‘ complaint asserts that in February 2016 he started sexually harassing her by “(a) asking her to come to stay with him on Long Island where it would be ‘very private,’ and (b) telling her on more than one occasion that he could ‘see [her] as a wild girl,’ and that he believed that she had a ‘wild side.'”
After complaints and allegedly because of O’Reilly’s “rumored prior sexual harassment issues,” according to the lawsuit, Brandi told Tantaros‘ former attorney that she would no longer be appearing on The O’Reilly Factor.
Tantaros blames Briganti for failing to provide her media support, “repeatedly crafting and placing insulting stories” about her at various news sites, and “posting, or directing the posting of, numerous negative comments about Tantaros from ‘sock puppet’ social media accounts.” (Through a Fox News spokesperson, Briganti denied all use of “sock puppet” social media accounts.)
Briganti is known as a powerful PR person; in the lawsuit, it’s claimed that Fox News and Ailes “controlled” various websites not under Fox, including TVNewser and Headline and Global News. These news outlets supposedly ran unflattering stories engineered by Ailes through Briganti to tarnish Tantaros‘ reputation as a serious journalist.
“Perhaps the most shocking encounter of all was a Spring 2015 meeting between Tantaros and Fox News Senior Executive, Defendant William Shine (“Shine”), during which Tantaros sought relief from Ailes’s sexual harassment and Briganti’s retaliatory media vendetta against her,” states the lawsuit. “In response, Shine told Tantaros that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man’ and that Tantaros ‘needed to let this one go.’… Shine’s inexplicable elevation sends the message that it will be ‘business as usual’ at Fox News when it comes to the treatment of women.”
Tantaros, who continues to draw a salary from Fox News and is being represented by attorney Judd Burstein, makes clear in her lawsuit that she’s less than impressed with the actions taken since she, Carlson and others came forward to complain about Ailes. For instance, the lawsuit asserts that Rupert Murdoch and his sons “are plainly not disturbed by Ailes‘ conduct,” citing the fact that Ailes wasn’t terminated for cause and has been allowed to walk away with a “$40 million going-away present.”
As for the investigation being conducted by outside lawyers at Paul, Weiss, the lawsuit takes issue with published reports that the results will not be made public. It adds: “Worse still, according to a published report, Paul Weiss has ceased questioning Fox News female employees at the offices of Fox News out of fear that the interviews are being bugged.”
Fox News and Tantaros are already engaged in arbitration with each other.
Back in March, Brandi emailed Tantaros with a request for a copy of her soon-to-be-published book, Tied Up in Knots, and a dispute erupted over whether Tantaros had violated the cable news network’s protocol on publishing. Tantaros insists that Brandi was informed she was writing a book and was provided an outline, that Outnumbered routinely mentioned it on-air and that it was published by Harper Collins, owned by Fox News’ parent company. Fox News is said to have invoked the “pay or play” provision of her contract and took her off-air, which Tantaros says was “intentionally designed to decimate the sales of Tantaros’s book.”
In May, in what Tantaros frames as an “effort to further silence” her, Fox commenced arbitration and allegedly offered her a settlement in which she would be paid the money through her contract term and in exchange would have to release claims against Brandi, Shine, O’Reilly and others.
“Over the ensuing months, as Tantaros was weighing her options, Fox News made it clear that unless she entered into the unfair settlement it had proposed, the drumbeat of attacks on her would increase,” states the lawsuit. “Thus, there was a constant stream of reporters calling for confirmation of wholly baseless and slanderous information leaked by unnamed Fox News sources. Each of these ridiculous leaks — such as that Tantaros was removed from the air because she had been involved in physical altercations with two other women at Fox News — originated, on information and belief, from Briganti.”
Tantaros says she was left with no choice but to go public.
Here’s the entire complaint, which claims sexual harassment on the part of Ailes and Fox News plus retaliation and tortious interference by all the defendants.
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