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Fox News has beaten a lawsuit from Andrea Tantaros, former co-host of The Five, as a federal judge on Friday rejected a wiretapping claim that was premised on allegations of malware placed on her computer, attempts to wipe her Blackberry device and surreptitious recording of women in the wardrobe department of the cable news network.
Tantaros brought the case in federal court in April 2017 after she couldn’t keep her first lawsuit alleging retaliation arising from sexual harassment allegations in open court. Wishing to face her former employer outside of arbitration, her original complaint was a wide-ranging one that alleged she was emotionally tortured under the Roger Ailes regime through harassing social media “sock-puppet” accounts and more.
Tantaros subsequently split with her attorney Judd Burstein and filed an amended complaint pro se (but with the assistance of various lawyers).
In Friday’s decision, U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels agrees with defendants — including former Fox News chief Bill Shine and tech entrepreneur Pete Snyder, alleged to have played a rose in internet harassment — that Tantaros has failed to state a claim in a case “based primarily on speculation and conjecture.”
With respect to Tantaros’ wiretap claim, the judge says she failed to allege a basic element — an actual interception of her communications.
“Even if Fox News or another Defendant was responsible for installing malware on Plaintiff’s personal computer — a conclusion for which there is scant factual support — Plaintiff’s allegations at most support an inference that Defendants had the capability to intercept her communications,” the judge writes. “Such allegations, however, are insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss.”
The judge addresses other allegations including that the information on the sock puppet accounts targeting her was so specific that it could only come from confidential communications. Daniels says that still doesn’t show connection to the defendants.
As for Ailes’ alleged use of a closed-circuit TV system to allow monitoring of offices, studios and greenrooms and how he allegedly secretly recorded her during the wardrobe department’s bi-annual trunk show, the judge concludes that Tantaros “pleads no facts to support this belief, much less ones to make her unsubstantiated allegations rise above the speculative level. … Moreover, even assuming that recording equipment was installed in Plaintiff’s office and in the locations where the bi-annual trunk show were held, Plaintiff does not allege that any of her communications were actually intercepted, as required by the statute.”
Tantaros fails to meet the technical requirements of her claim elsewhere as the judge finds that alleged physical surveillance of her, which she believed had come under the direction of Ailes, is not covered by the Wiretape Act.
Here’s the full decision that also gets into why a claim under the Stored Communications Act is rejected as well. Tantaros also loses a final claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The ruling comes a few days after Fox settled nearly 20 discrimination claims for $10 million — putting an end to the bulk of the company’s workplace litigation — and announcing Suzanne Scott as new CEO of Fox News.
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