Fox News Channel says its former host Andrea Tantaros “is not a victim, she is an opportunist” who is using a sexual harassment lawsuit as a “smokescreen” to distract from her “violation of her employment contract.”
Tantaros, meanwhile, has challenged current and former network execs to submit to a lie detector test, and the press obtained a copy of her proposed questions. Most were of the school of questioning that ran along the lines of: “Did you ever ask Mr. Tantaros to turn around for you?,” “Did you ever say anything to Ms. Tantaros about how she would look in a bikini?,” “Do you know what a sock puppet account is?” and “Did you direct an independent contractor for Fox News to arrange for negative comments about Ms. Tantaros to be made on social media?”
Tantaros has been off the air for about four months, reportedly because she had not gotten the network’s blessing on her her book Tied Up In Knots, which Fox News maintains is required in her contract.
About a week ago, Tantaros filed her harassment lawsuit, naming FNC, Roger Ailes, recently upped-to-co-prez Bill Shine, and FNC’s EVP PR Irena Briganti, EVP Business and Legal Affairs Dianne Brandi and EVP Programming & Development Suzanne Scott.
Her lawsuit came on the heels of a sexual harassment suit filed by former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, which caused FNC parent company 21st Century Fox to launch an investigation and FNC chief Ailes to resign while continuing to insist the allegations were baseless.
In today’s filing, Fox News says Tantaros “claims now that she too was victimized by Roger Ailes, when, in fact, contrary to her pleading, she never complained of any such conduct in the course of an investigation months ago. Not to be outdone by anyone, she contends that she was sexually harassed by an ever-shifting collection of employees at Fox News; she charges that outside counsel retained by 21st Century Fox deliberately ignored her purportedly important harassment story (actually, her lawyer, Joseph C. Cane, Jr., failed to return a telephone call from the law firm, Paul Weiss, retained to conduct the investigation); and she claims retaliation even though she concedes that she has not been terminated and remains on Fox News’ payroll.
Fox News said Tantaros’ complaint is “fìlled with falsehoods” but argues that what matters most is her “foundational allegation — that her lawsuit has been properly filed in this Court — is demonstrably wrong.”
“Every claim in Tantaros’ baseless complaint is subject to the broad and unambiguous provision in her Employment Agreement governing all disputes arising out of or relating to her employment.”
The network said arbitration might not present “the opportunities for public vilification that she and her counsel seem to favor,” but that does not excuse her ignoring terms of her employment agreement” and urged the court to compel Tantaros to “proceed in the arbitration proceeding that is already underway.”
Tantaros fired back, via her lawyer Judd Burstein, who said Fox News’ motion to compel arbitration “provides more corroboration of” his client’s “truthful account of the facts.”
“Fox News has all but acknowledged that Roger Ailes did sexually harass Andrea Tantaros because its lawyers are representing every defendant in the suit other than Roger Ailes,” Burstein said in a statement. “If Mr. Ailes were innocent, Fox News would also be defending him. Instead, they have dropped him like the proverbial hot potato in the hope that his former cabal members can continue in place.”
Burstein also wondered, rhetorically: “If Mr. Shine and his minions are innocent, why do they want this dispute to be resolved in the shadows? An innocent person would be so outraged that he or she would want public vindication.”
He further taunted that if he were the victim of “false allegations I would insist that my lawyer accept Ms. Tantaros’s lie detector challenge” suggesting, “Mr. Shine and the rest of his crew are rejecting our challenge because they know that they would fail.”