The battle between former The Five co-host Andrea Tantaros and Fox News Channel and Roger Ailes just took a detour from the courts to the shrink’s couch and back again today. In filings her lawyer Wednesday to stop the multimillion-dollar sexual harassment suit against the cable news giant, its former boss and its current brass from going to arbitration, Tantaros’ psychologist says she knew about the alleged bad behavior at FNC for years.
“In 2014, Andrea told me about meetings with Mr. Ailes in his office where he engaged in highly inappropriate and offensive behavior,” Michele Berdy says in a sworn affidavit filed in NY Supreme Court (read it here). “I also recall a number of occasions when Andrea complained to me about recurring unwanted advances from Bill O’Reilly, which included an invitation to his ‘very private’ beach house and comment about his perception that she was ‘wild,’” adds the NYC clinical psychologist, who saw Tantaros from late 2013 to early 2016.
This comes as Tantaros’ attorney Judd Burstein also filed a memorandum of opposition today to the motions of the now-fired Ailes, FNC and his fellow defendants — now-channel co-president Bill Shine, FNC EVP Corporate Communications Irena Briganti, FNC EVP Busines and Legal Affairs Dianne Brandi and EVP Programming Suzanne Scott — to push the whole matter out of the spotlight. “Defendants are desperate to have this dispute heard behind closed doors, because they do not want their appalling conduct to be subject to public scrutiny,” says the dense 31-page document (read it here). “Not only did Ailes subject Tantaros to repulsive and illegal harassment, but all of the Defendants zealously sought to cover it up, and then punished Tantaros when she refused to go along with Ailes’ s program.”
Burstein has said that he and Tantaros, who is suspended from FNC but still being paid, have rejected a nearly $2 million settlement deal from FNC tha
t would have stifled her TV appearances on other cable news outlets and stopped her suing execs and others at the channel. “We stand by our earlier motion to compel arbitration,” said FNC in response to today’s filings.
However, Tantaros’ ex-doctor is standing by her as strongly.
“I also want to make clear that Andrea did not reach out to me about her present case against Fox News,” Berdy’s filing noted, offering further protection to possible attacks against Tantaros. “After reading about it in the media, and also reading reports that Fox News was denying her claims, I emailed Andrea to tell her that I knew that she was telling the truth because she had told me, in a therapeutic setting where she would have had no motive to lie, about the conduct of Mr. Ailes, Mr. Shine, Mr. O’Reilly, Ms. Briganti, and others at the time, or very shortly after, the harassment, retaliation and pervasive hostile and sexualized workplace conditions took place.”
Off the air for weeks this year, Tantaros filed her lawsuit against Ailes and the “sex-fueled” FNC on August 22, just over a month after the former Richard Nixon aide was forced to resign over a sexual harassment lawsuit by Gretchen Carlson. Initially filed in early July, the former Outnumbered co-host’s claims were removed from the courts after an investigation by an outside law firm and a $20 million settlement announced on September 6. Ailes received a $40 million payout when Rupert Murdoch and his sons pushed him out during the GOP convention this summer.
Since Tantaros’ legal action, FNC has said in response that the matter arose not out of harassment but because the on-air talent didn’t seek or receive the correct approval for her HarperCollins-published book Tied Up in Knots. The former Five co-host is “is not a victim, she is an opportunist,” FNC lawyers claimed in late August, propagating Tantaros’ suit is a “smokescreen” to hide her “violation of her employment contract.”
FNC and its executives are represented in the case by attorneys at NYC firm Epstein Becker & Green, P.C.