Fox News and former chairman Roger Ailes has been hit with another sexual harassment suit.
Anchor Andrea Tantaros filed her complaint in the New York State Supreme Court and named Fox News and several of its executives, including Ailes, recently named copresident Bill Shine, programming head Suzanne Scott, counsel Dianne Brandi and public relations chief Irena Briganti.
Ailes resigned last month following a similar sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson and an investigation by parent company 21st Century Fox that turned up complaints by other female Fox News staffers.
Fox News said it does not comment on pending litigation.
In the suit, Tantaros says “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.”
Tantaros also charges that 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,” her suit says.
She adds that 21st Century Fox’s top execs, Rupert, James and Lachlan Murdoch, “have been misleading the public into believing that they are taking action. In fact, they have done the opposite,” according to the suit.
Tantaros says she signed a contract in 2011 to be co-host of the Fox News show The Five at 5 p.m. “It was a dream job,” she said in the lawsuit.
But life at the network proved troubling. She was instructed to wear clothes that showed off her legs and required her 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, according to the suit.
In the suit, Ailes is accused of making inappropriate comments like “turn around so I can get a good look on you”—a move so common at Fox News it was referred to as “The Twirl”—and “I bet you look good in a bikini.”
After she rebuffed sexual harassment by Ailes and his efforts to engage in inappropriate conversations about Fox News employees, Tantaros charges that Ailes retaliated, moving her from 5 p.m. to the noon show Outnumbered.
Neither the move nor the show was promoted. The suit said that Briganti, Fox News’ head of public relations, failed to provide media support and denied request by media looking to interview Tantaros. She also placed embarrassing stories about Tantaros, according to the suit.
“Perhaps the most shocking encounter of all,” the suit claims, “was a Spring 2015 meeting between Tantaros and Fox News Senior Executive, Defendant William Shine ('Shine'), during which Tantaros sought relief from Ailes’s sexual harassment and Briganti’s retaliatory media vendetta against her. In response, Shine told Tantaros that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man’ and that Tantaros ‘needed to let this one go.’ Yet, after Ailes was revealed to be a sexual predator and forced to resign, Shine was promoted to Co-President of Fox News. 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 said that instead of letting it go, she complained more vociferously to Shine, Brandi and Scott. The retaliation intensified, she charges, with Brandi sending a letter in April 2016 saying that Tantaros was being removed from the air.
Fox News initiated an arbitration with Tantaros in May, offering a settlement that would pay out her contract but keep her from talking about her experiences at Fox News, according to the suit.
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