Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News, former CEO Roger Ailes and newly appointed co-president Bill Shine. The lawsuit also mentions the network’s biggest star, Bill O’Reilly.
“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,” according to the legal documents, obtained by TheWrap.
The lawsuit filed Monday in New York State Supreme Court claims Tantaros tried to discuss the situation with Shine, but to no avail. According to the suit, Shine told Tantaros that she should not “fight this” and that she “needed to let this one go.”
Documents show she’s also claiming to have received unwanted sexual advances from O’Reilly, alleging that the “O’Reilly Factor” host asked her to stay with him in Long Island where it would be “very private” and repeatedly told her she probably had a “wild side.” Back in 2004, an associate producer accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment but the two parties quickly settled out of court.
Shine was recently promoted to the co-president of the cable news network, essentially replacing his former mentor Ailes, who departed after former Fox News personality Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit of her own. Tantaros’ lawsuit says, “Shine’s inexplicable elevation sends the message that it will be ‘business as usual’ at Fox News when it comes to the treatment of women.”
Tantaros is asking for “no event less than $10 million,” because “Fox News and Ailes acted with malice and reckless indifference.”
In the suit, Tantaros called her gig at Fox News her “dream job,” but alleges that she was “the victim of demeaning conduct, such as being instructed to wear clothes that showed off her legs, and being required to annually pick on-air clothing in the middle of a room without the benefit of even a curtain, thereby forcing her to strip down in front of Fox News wardrobe personnel.”
The defendants are listed as Fox News, Ailes, Shine and network execs Dianne Brandi, Irena Briganti and Suzanne Scott. Tantaros’ attorney, Judd Burstein, declined TheWrap’s request for comment, while Fox News declined to comment on pending litigation.
The suit states, “Ailes did not act alone… 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.”
The suit also claims that Ailes once called current Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle a “Puerto Rican whore” in front of Tantaros.
After Carlson filed her sexual harassment suit against Ailes nearly two months ago, a number of other women have come forward with similar claims. Ailes has denied all allegations, despite stepping down form the network. The suit also mentions that Ailes once called Carlson “nuts” to Tantaros.
Tantaros, co-host of Fox News’ “Outnumbered,” mysteriously disappeared from the network in April. A Fox statement said “issues have arisen” with her contract, and that she was going to “take some time off.”
Three months later, when Carlson and other women accused former Fox chief Roger Ailes of sexual harassment, it seemed like the mystery of what really happened to Tantaros might be solved — especially after New York Magazine reported Monday that she had repeatedly complained to executives in 2015 “about Ailes’s inappropriate sexual behavior.” The magazine reported she was demoted and silenced.
But earlier this month, a person with knowledge of the legal situation told TheWrap the sexual harassment issue is a way for Tantaros to “muddy the waters when the real issue is her contract.”
“Fox News has continued to pay Tantaros her salary in the hope that the fear of losing her income will keep her quiet,” the suit alleges.
The issue, said the person, is that Tantaros promoted her book, “Tied Up in Knots,” on the air without permission, after failing to submit a publishing timeline or detailed outline of the book’s content, as required by her contract.
The New York Magazine story says that Ailes asked Tantaros to do a “twirl” in August 2014, and told her in February 2015 that her body “looked good.” That same month, in February 2015, Tantaros was moved from the 5 p.m. show “The Five” to the mid-day show “Outnumbered.”
The magazine said she complained about Ailes to Fox News’ then-executive vice president Shine in April 2015, though he told TheWrap through a spokeswoman: “Andrea never made any complaints to me about Roger Ailes sexually harassing her.”
On March 16, Fox News received a letter from Los Angeles attorney Joseph Cane, who no longer represents Tantaros. The letter said Tantaros’ safety had been threatened, and that “people she doesn’t know” had come on the “Outnumbered” set, which made her uncomfortable, the source said. The letter also mentioned inappropriate male behavior, and mentioned other people, including on-air personalities, but not Ailes, the source said.
“Because Defendants acted with malice and reckless indifference to Plaintiff’s rights, Plaintiff is entitled to an award of punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial, but in no event less than $10 million,” Tantaros’ suit states.