The latest sexual-harassment lawsuit against Fox News and deposed CEO Roger Ailes alleges that the network’s executives actively retaliated against on-air personality Andrea Tantaros after she repeatedly complained about inappropriate conduct in the workplace.
Tantaros's lawsuit filed Monday in New York Supreme Court declares that “Fox News masquerades as a 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.”
In particular, she names Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and several on-air contributors as having allegedly harassed her; and she accuses top executives including Ailes’s successor, Bill Shine, and chief flack Irena Briganti of trying to intimidate her from complaining further.
Among the allegations against Ailes are that after she rebuffed his repeated sexual advances, he “demoted” her from a regular co-hosting gig with 5 p.m. gabfest The Five to the noon hour’s Outnumbered. The longtime conservative commentator also claims that Ailes would suggestively ask her to “twirl” and show off her body in his office; that he would inappropriately pry about her personal life; and that he would make sexually charged remarks about her colleagues, including calling Kimberly Guilfoyle a “Puerto Rican whore” and asking whether The Five star hosts Greg Gutfeld and Dana Perino were engaged in an extramarital affair.
Tantaros claims she repeatedly sought help from Shine, Fox’s top lawyer Dianne Brandi, and executive vice president of programming Suzanne Scott, but that she was told Ailes is a “very powerful man” and that she “needed to let this one go.”
According to the suit, O’Reilly also harassed Tantaros, despite having infamously once been accused of repeated sexual harassment by ex-producer Andrea Mackris. The primetime star allegedly attempted to lure Tantaros to his Long Island home for some “privacy,” and told her that he views her as a “wild girl” with a “wild side.” For their part, Fox took action by immediately ending her regular appearances on The O’Reilly Factor.
Fox News’s culture of sexual harassment, the suit adds, allegedly extends beyond top brass and ensnares low-level contributors who appeared as the “One Lucky Guy” on Outnumbered, the female-dominated noon talk show.
Former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, she claims, “made a number of sexually inappropriate comments” to her, including the suggestive comment that she “would be fun to go to a nightclub with.” Later on, in a cafeteria, he allegedly “snuck up behind Tantaros while she was purchasing lunch and put his hands on her lower waist. She immediately pulled back, telling Brown to ‘stop.’” (Brown took to Twitter on Tuesday to vehemently deny the claims: “As a survivor of sexual abuse, I would never perpetuate language or actions as described in Fox complaint. Actions referenced are fabricated.”)
Additionally, she alleges, Dean Cain—the actor best known for playing Superman in a ’90s TV series—inappropriately “groped” her while appearing on Outnumbered alongside her. Fox News national correspondent John Roberts, she claims, also made uncouth comments on- and off-air, including asking “Have you frozen your eggs?”
The show’s producers allegedly agreed that Roberts had behaved improperly, and Tantaros brought all three cases to the attention of Fox execs, but nonetheless, the network continued to book the guests alongside her on the show.
As her complaints became numerous and frequent, she says, the network waged a covert PR war against her, with Ailes mouthpiece Briganti leaking negative stories about Tantaros to friendly outlets and failing to arrange promotional interviews with outside media. (The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove, however, did interview Tantaros in October 2014, around the time she alleges the flack’s retaliation had begun.)
The network eventually threatened her firing unless she played ball. Fox News removed her from the air shortly before her book was set for publication and offered to continue paying her if she dropped her claims against Fox execs and personalities, turned over all personal materials concerning Fox or its employees, and agree to never discuss her time at the network “from now until forever.”
Ultimately, she decided, to go to court like Gretchen Carlson had done the month prior.