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"Fox News ... operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult."
Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros filed a lawsuit against her former employer Monday, claiming top executives at the network punished her for complaining about sexual harassment by ousted chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, according to a report from the New York Times.
This suit, filed in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, is the latest in a back-and-forth between the former anchor and Fox News, whose lawyers early on said she was sidelined for writing a book without network approval. But Tantaros holds nothing back in this lawsuit.
"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," Tantaros' suit reads.
In April, Fox's chief lawyer said Tantaros had fabricated the sexual harassment allegations in an attempt to gain leverage in a contract dispute. But Tantaros' lawyer, Judd Burstein, claimed the book issue was just the excuse Fox used to suppress the ousted host's complaints.
The network even offered to pay Tantaros a sum "in the seven figures" if she would renounce the allegations against Ailes and other senior network personalities, including Bill O'Reilly, Bernstein said. According to the lawsuit, Tantaros said she experienced unwelcome advances from O'Reilly, who she had previously seen as a friend and an advisor.
"Ailes did not act alone," the suit reads. "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."
In addition to the advances and pressures from within the network, the lawsuit alleges Tantaros was also the victim of humiliating posts published by pseudonymous Twitter accounts — known as "sock puppets" — that she claims were instigated by the Fox News publicity department.
Tantaros joined Fox in 2010, first as a contributor, but she went on to become a co-host of "The Five," the network's 5 p.m. show. At one point, she claims in the suit that she was frequently told she could not wear pants on set because "Roger wants to see your legs."
The lawsuit also describes several other alleged encounters, from the Times:
The lawsuit goes on to say that on Aug. 12, 2014, Mr. Ailes called her into his office and asked if she was planning to marry and have children. “Ailes then started complaining about marriage in general, and also made off-color jokes about being married,” the lawsuit states. It describes Mr. Ailes as speculating on the sexual habits and preferences of 10 Fox News personalities.
He asked Ms. Tantaros to turn around “so I can get a good look at you,” the lawsuit charges, adding that Ms. Tantaros refused. Soon after, she was moved from “The Five” to a lower-rated show, “Outnumbered,” that aired at midday.
Mr. Ailes called her back for similar sessions in December 2014 and February 2015, the lawsuit charges, and when she continued to rebuff him, she encountered hostility from the Fox News publicity department. In the February meeting, she said, Mr. Ailes talked about how she would look in a bikini, and accused her of ending a long-term relationship because she had been merely using the man. The episode brought her to tears, the lawsuit states. She said the sole interview arranged by the publicity department during that period was with a writer for a blog controlled by Fox, who asked about her breasts and if she was difficult to work with.
In an April 2015 meeting, Tantaros claimed to have met with Bill Shine, a senior news executive and close aide to Ailes at the time, to ask him if he had told Irena Briganti, the network's head of publicity, about her encounters with Ailes and instructed Briganti to go after her. According to the lawsuit, Shine "told Tantaros that Briganti is like a rabid dog on a chain that we can’t control. Sometimes that dog gets off the chain," before telling the Fox host to "let this one go."
Shine, now co-president of Fox, said through a spokeswoman that Tantaros never approached him to discuss the allegations against Ailes.
Ailes, the network's founding chairman and the mastermind behind the empire for 20 years, resigned last month after former anchor Gretchen Carlson levied similar charges of sexual harassment against him. Ailes, for his part, has denied all allegations to date.
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