1:07pm PT by Ashley Cullins
Andrea Tantaros Claims Fox News Bribed Twitter User in Surveillance Lawsuit
Ex-Fox News personality Andrea Tantaros isn't backing down from her claims that she was illegally surveilled and "tortured" online after reporting harassment from Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly.
She first sued in August, but the judge granted a motion to compel arbitration so she filed a suit in federal court, claiming the network hacked her computer to access her personal email and enlisted social media users to harass her online. Fox described the lawsuit as a work of fiction fit for television and in May asked the court to impose sanctions. Now, Tantaros is firing back and claiming the network bribed or extorted a Florida man into pretending his harassing tweets are innocent.
"This case started off as a case about illegal electronic surveillance and the use of 'sockpuppet' social media accounts — extremely disturbing allegations if true (which they are)," writes attorney Judd Burstein in a Wednesday filing, adding that now "it seems highly likely that someone working for FNC has extorted or bribed Daniel Wayne Block into signing a Declaration that cannot possibly be true."
Block is a Twitter user whom Tantaros initially mentioned in her complaint as a sockpuppet account — or someone who is paid to tweet. She complained about tweets that referenced her personal life including a "scorpion" message when Tantaros' close friend was hospitalized from a bite and a "Disney Land" message when Tantaros says her relatives were at the theme park — she also says Block mailed her a copy of her book to sign despite having no conceivable way to know her home address. In his declaration, Block gave explanations for those tweets and admitted to sending Tantaros gifts.
Burstein argues that Block's sworn statements contradict themselves and that it would be absurd to grant a motion for sanctions based on an "untested" declaration, especially without giving Tantaros the opportunity to depose Block or seek related discovery from Fox.
"We do not suggest that counsel for FNC did the deed or even approved of it," writes Burstein. "But signs of coercion or bribery are so obvious that the best that can be said for them is they willfully blinded themselves to the obvious. They too should be held responsible."
Tantaros says this evidence of Fox News' modus operandi: allow harassment, intimidate the woman into silence and then, if that doesn't work, "scare her into submission."
Fox News said in a statement: "Suffice it to say that Fox News continues to believe that its sanctions motion is well-founded and we will address these latest claims in our reply papers.”