Former Fox News Host Andrea Tantaros Sues Network: 'It Operates Like a Sex-Fueled, Playboy Mansion-Like Cult'
Fox News has been hit by another sexual harassment lawsuit.
Andrea Tantaros, a former Fox News host, charged in a lawsuit filed Monday in New York City that top executives at the network punished her for complaining about chief Roger Ailes‘ inappropriate behavior.
The lawsuit is the latest of the former Outnumbered co-host’s legal entanglements with Fox News. Earlier this year, Fox claimed that she had breached her contract by writing a book without getting network approval.
According to court documents obtained by PEOPLE, Tantaros, 37, claims that she received unwanted sexual advances from both Ailes, 76, and Bill O’Reilly, 66, and alleges she was taken off air as retaliation for lodging the complaints. (Fox News told PEOPLE the network does not comment on pending litigation.)
“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 alleges in her suit.
Ailes, the network’s founding chairman and former CEO, resigned last month. His exit came two weeks after former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed suit against Ailes, claiming sexual harassment and retaliation.
Tantaros’ suit alleges she was repeatedly told by Fox executives that she could not wear pants on the air because “Roger wants to see your legs”; it’s aso claims that Ailes called her into his office in August 2014 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, charging Ailes asked Tantaros to turn around “so I can get a good look at you,” but that Tantaros refused. Soon after, Tantaros was moved from The Five to Outnumbered, a reportedly lower-rated show that aired at midday.
The lawsuit claims Tantaros continued to rebuff Ailes and alleges she began to encounter hostility from the Fox News publicity department. The suit also alleges Tantaros was the subject of humiliating posts by pseudonymous accounts on Twitter known as “sock puppets” that she reportedly claims were instigated by the Fox News publicity department. (Through a Fox News spokesperson, Irena Briganti denied all use of “sock puppet” social media accounts.)
Tantaros also alleged she had been also been subjected to unwelcome advances from O’Reilly, whom she had regarded as a friend and adviser. The suit charges O’Reilly asked her to come stay with him on Long Island where it would be “very private,” and charges he told her on more than one occasion that he could “see [her] as a wild girl” and that he believed that she had a “wild side.”
Tantaros’ lawyer Judd Burstein told the New York Times that during arbitration, Fox News offered to pay her a sum “in the seven figures” if she renounced her claims against Ailes and others at the network, including O’Reilly.
“Ailes did not act alone,” the lawsuit states. “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.”
Tantaros is seeking $49 million in punitive damages for lost income, mental anguish and attorneys’ fees.