Roger Ailes may be gone and Fox News Channel may be cleaning house and aiming for new leadership, but the fallout from the claims of sexual harassment under the old CEO’s regime continues. Former The Five co-host Andrea Tantaros is now hitting the cable news network and Ailes with a nearly $50 million lawsuit.
“Fox News masquerades as defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny,” says Tantaros in her multi-claim sexual harassment complaint (read it here) filed yesterday in New York state court. “Fox News knew of the sexual harassment perpetrated against Plaintiff, or at a minimum should have known about it, based upon the pervasive atmosphere of sexual harassment of female employees that was tolerated and condoned under Ailes’s leadership generally, and the brazenness of Ailes’s conduct with respect to Plaintiff,” she adds.
“Ailes did not act alone,” Tantaros’ complaint says, noting advances from Bill O’Reilly, John Roberts and others during her tenure at the outlet. “He may have been the primary culprit, but his actions were condoned by his most senior lieutenants, who engaged in a concerted effort to silence Tantaros by threats, humiliation and retaliation.”
Now benched as an on-air host since this spring supposedly because of not getting proper approvals for her book Tied Up In Knots, Tantaros is, as she points out in the complaint, still being paid. She is suing FNC, Ailes, newly minted co-president Bill Shine, close Ailes aide and FNC media SVP Irena Briganti, FNC legal EVP Diane Brandi, and Programming EVP Suzanne Scott. Tantaros and her lawyer Judd Burstein also make clear in the detailed suit that this is not just about the past and what they see as inadequate procedures at FNC but the future when they say: “Most importantly, the Murdochs have actually rewarded Ailes’s coconspirators by not terminating their employment, and, most egregiously, elevating Shine to the position of Co-President of Fox News.”
A FNC spokesperson told Deadline the organization does not comment on pending litigation.
In the five-claim filing made August 22, Tantaros says she “suffered lost income and mental anguish” from being taken off the air at Fox News and the media attention that emerged once her status at the station went public a few weeks ago. Having rejected a settlement proposed by FNC in arbitration earlier this year, she is also seeking more than $25 million in punitive damages.
To make sure this case doesn’t end up behind the closed doors of arbitration, former co-host of The Five and Outnumbered takes a shot across the legal bow that FNC itself shattered the provisions of its employment agreement with her by going public with the fact the parties were already in arbitration over the consequences of her book, the internal response, and the claims of inappropriate behavior on the part of Ailes or others towards her.
“Over the ensuing months, as Tantaros was weighing her options, Fox News made it clear that unless she entered into the unfair settlement it had proposed, the drumbeat of attacks on her would increase,” the 37-page complaint alleges.
“Thus, there was a constant stream of reporters calling for confirmation of wholly baseless and slanderous information leaked by unnamed Fox News sources. Each of these ridiculous leaks — such as that Tantaros was removed from the air because she had been involved in physical altercations with two other women at Fox News — originated, on information and belief, from Briganti.”
Reports have emerged in recent weeks that Tantaros’ allegations in the media of harassment from Ailes and others were unfounded, according to investigations made by the cable newser.
Tantaros is represented by Burstein at NYC’s Judd Burstein, P.C.