Former anchor says Fox News a ‘sex-fueled cult’ in harassment lawsuit
By Daniel Wiessner
(Reuters) – A former Fox News anchor claims in a lawsuit that former network Chairman Roger Ailes, who resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment and is reportedly advising Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump, fueled a misogynistic culture at the top-rated channel enforced by other executives.
Andrea Tantaros said she was taken off the air in April in retaliation for rebuffing Ailes’ advances and complaining to top officials at Fox News, a unit of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc <FOXA.O>, in a lawsuit filed Monday in New York state court in Manhattan.
The defendants include Fox, Ailes, William Shine, who was named co-president of the network when Ailes resigned last month, and three other company officials.
Fox in a statement said it does not comment on pending litigation. Two lawyers for Ailes did not respond to requests for comment.
Former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson in July filed a lawsuit making similar harassment allegations against Ailes, but unlike Tantaros she did not claim she was silenced by other Fox executives. Carlson’s lawsuit led Ailes to resign on July 21, and Fox has said it launched an internal investigation.
Tantaros in Monday’s lawsuit said that Ailes, beginning in 2011, made numerous comments about her appearance and asked her to “twirl” for him. She said that Shine, then a senior executive, and the company’s top in-house lawyer shrugged off complaints about Ailes’ conduct.
“Fox News masquerades as defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult,” the lawsuit said.
The claims came a week after the New York Times reported that Ailes, 76, was helping Trump prepare for debates with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The Trump campaign said Ailes had no formal or informal role.
Tantaros first made her claims in a New York magazine article published two weeks ago. In response, Shine through a representative denied that Tantaros ever complained to him about harassment.
Two lawyers for Tantaros were not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.
Ailes in July moved in federal court in Manhattan to send Carlson’s lawsuit to arbitration, but both sides later agreed to keep the case in New Jersey, where it was filed and where Ailes owns a home. His lawyers at the time said they planned to seek arbitration in that court.
Ailes in court documents said Fox employees routinely sign arbitration agreements that include confidentiality provisions.
The case is Tantaros v. Fox News Network LLC, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 157054/2016.