At this point, it feels like not a week goes by without some legal action related to Fox News Channel and this week is no exception, but today it is the cable newser that fired the latest salvo – and that has Andrea Tantaros’ lawyer claiming Fox made his day.
“I could not be happier about the strength of my case because Fox News has now handed me the smoking gun, evidence that they were electronically surveilling Ms. Tantaros’ telephone conversations as late as April 21, 2017,” attorney Judd Burstein told Deadline this morning in response to a filing by FNC seeking to have the ex-Outnumbered co-host’s latest complaint of last month thrown out (read it here). “Worse still, they were listening in on my privileged conversations with Ms. Tantaros,” Burstein adds, pointing to the recent removal of a contentious tweet from a so-called “sockpuppet” account by a supposed retiree who lives in Florida.
“The only way that anyone would have thought to remove this key Tweet from Mr. Block’s Twitter account would have been because they knew that I was using that account as an example of the campaign against Ms. Tantaros,” the lawyer claims in a very damning accusation. “And the only way for someone to know my plan would have been if my privileged phone conversations with Ms. Tantaros had been illegally intercepted.”
Ramping everything up even more, if possible, the paperwork in federal court from FNC is also demanding sanctions against Burstein for what they claim is “violation of his professional obligations.” Needless to say, with plans to filed a detailed amended complaint partially in response, the NYC-based attorney sees it very differently and aims to land some more punches of his own.
“The real story here is that, in their effort to bully Ms. Tantaros by filing a frivolous sanctions motion, counsel for Fox News has demonstrated its guilt,” Burstein added Tuesday. “While I believe that Fox counsel will be sanctioned for their negligence in submitting a perjurious declaration from Mr. Block, I thank them for doing so.”
Essentially, FNC is saying that the allegations in Tantaros’ April 24 complaint of “criminal conduct” in the use of “very complex, and used cutting-edge technology” and social media “sockpuppet accounts” that was used to keep very close tabs here “in such a twisted way” are total carpology. The once Roger Ailes run outlet also says that the Twitter account of a ‘Daniel Wayne Block’ is not a FNC front. They also say the Tantaros contacting Block was not paid to tweet by Fox News or anyone else.”
“The allegations of the Complaint read like the plot of a television drama: Plaintiff Andrea Tantaros claims that her then-employer, Fox News Network, LLC hacked her laptop computer, tapped her telephone, and then tortured her with the information gathered from those acts by sending her coded messages through a ‘sockpuppet’ social media account,” the memorandum of law for the motion by FNC, now pink slipped co-president Bill Shine, and communications boss Irena Briganti. “But pleadings in federal court are not supposed to be works of fiction; they must be grounded in fact,” the memo adds with obvious relish.
“The allegations in the Complaint are not just false, they are outrageously and flagrantly so. Nevertheless, on the very first page of the Complaint, Burstein falsely accuses Fox News of engaging in criminal conduct. This sensational allegation, broadcast in bold-faced type, was made solely to generate negative headlines for, and inflict maximum damage on, Fox News,” says lawyers for the cabler that has seen Ailes canned under multiple allegations of sexual harassment, a slew of high profile hosts exit for greener pastures, Bill O’Reilly fired, more lawsuits including a potential class action for racial discrimination and Shine most recently shown the door.
Representing the Fox defendants, the filing from Andrew Levander, Linda Goldstein, Nicolle Jacoby and Benjamin Rose at Dechert LLP does not cover the now deceased Ailes, who is a co-defendant in Tantaros federal complaint and is a key figure in the $50 million multi-claim sexual harassment complaint she filed last August in NY State court. Earlier this year, an Empire State judge shifted that matter to arbitration, which Tantaros is currently appealing while now fighting on the federal front.
“Mr. Burstein, who has already been chastised by the state court in this dispute, simply seeks to divert attention from his baseless federal complaint by misstating the facts,” said Levander today in a statement responding to the Tantaros lawyer’s response. “Our motion for sanctions, supported by indisputable sworn statements and documentary evidence as well as overwhelming judicial authority, speaks for itself.”