The Incredibly Sexist Interview Andrea Tantaros Discusses In Her Lawsuit Against Roger Ailes
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Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros alleges in a sexual harassment lawsuit that after she rebuffed advances from then-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, the network denied requests from “prominent and credible media outlets to interview Tantaros” but arranged for her participation in an interview with “a website reportedly controlled by Ailes” where the interviewer humiliated her with questions about her breasts and other “outrageous” queries.
The website’s resulting write-up of that interview discussed Tantaros’ “physical attractiveness” repeatedly and in detail and mentioned that the interviewer asked her questions about “frequent” online descriptions of her regarding “her physical attributes.”
Tantaros’ August 22 lawsuit says that after she rejected repeated unwanted advances from Ailes in 2014, she was given permission by Fox’s media relations department to participate in only a single interview, with “a website reportedly controlled by Ailes,” during which she says she was “humiliated by the interviewer,” who asked her about “her breasts -- all while a Fox News media relations staffer” observed the interview “but did not object.”
Ailes was forced to resign from Fox in July after dozens of women accused him of sexual harassment. Tantaros’ lawsuit makes similar allegations against Ailes. She also alleges that she was sexually harassed by Fox host Bill O’Reilly and contributor Scott Brown, and that Fox executive Bill Shine, who is also a defendant in the lawsuit, urged her to “let this one go” when she brought her harassment by Ailes to his attention. Shine was promoted to co-president of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox following Ailes’ resignation.
Tantaros further alleges that after she rebuffed his advances, Ailes retaliated by turning “Fox News’s widely-reported, vindictive media relations department” against her. She cites as one example of this conduct:
Only arranging for, and giving, Tantaros permission to participate in a single interview -- one with Headline and Global News, a website reportedly controlled by Ailes. At this interview, Tantaros was humiliated by the interviewer, who asked outrageous questions concerning, inter alia, her breasts -- all while a Fox News media relations staffer stood by and made no effort to intercede or stop these entirely inappropriate questions.
Tantaros’ lawsuit alleges that following the interview, she told Shine that she “believed the interview was a ‘set up’ engineered by Ailes” to “paint her as sex object rather than as a serious journalist.” The lawsuit further states that during that meeting, Tantaros detailed past instances in which she said Ailes had sexually harassed her. At a follow-up meeting a few days later, the lawsuit alleges, Shine suggested to Tantaros that Fox PR boss Irena Briganti had been behind the incident and that Ailes is “a very powerful man” and Tantaros should not “fight this.”
Headlines & Global News president and editorial director Michael Q. Bullerdick conducted the interview, which was published as a 3,500-word profile on May 4, 2015. While the interview gives no indication that Bullerdick asked Tantaros about her breasts, it does include the following disturbing passages focused on Tantaros’ physical appearance.
An Extensive Discussion Of Tantaros’ “Curve-Hugging” Outfit:
TANTAROS IS TELLING me all this on the set of her hit daily Fox News talk show "Outnumbered." Although we met off stage we do the interview seated on the familiar crescent white couch. She is resplendent in a curve-hugging and subtly textured white dress that stops around the knees. This is a departure from the bold colors, particularly rich blues, we're used to seeing her wear. But it contrasts fantastically with her deeper complexion and inky black hair. Tan stilettos boasting a subtle cheetah pattern (or is it giraffe?) round out the day's look, and make her seem taller than I remember from a chance meeting several months ago at a publishing party.
Bullerdick Saying He Wants To Be “One Of Those ‘Lucky Guys’”:
The set is empty and she can sit anywhere but she instinctively takes her usual place on my right - one of the two "leg seats," as they're known. I'm a seat's width away in the middle spot normally reserved for each day's male guest host, the one the show has branded "one lucky guy." Later when I tell her how well it seems to suit me and hint that I'd love to be one of those "lucky guys," she ribs me about having a typical male ego.
Tantaros Passing The “Litmus Test” Of “Being Easy On The Eyes”:
Being relatable - or "likable" as Fox News network genius Roger Ailes has frequently termed it - is the litmus test his hosts must pass if they are to advance at the network. The other test, no doubt, is being easy on the eyes. If my own pair, along with the outsized Internet inventory of her physical appearance are to be believed, Tantaros has passed that test too.
Bullerdick Quizzing Tantaros About “The Frequent Description Of Her Online” Regarding “Her Physical Attributes”:
She laughs politely at first when I run off a list of Google key words associated with a search of her name - ones that include "hot," "legs," and "bikini" (The latter is a hoax so don't bother looking). But she tenses and frowns slightly when I follow that up by mentioning the frequent description of her online as a "Greek goddess" and the pages and pages of Internet threads spooling out of control about her physical attributes and posing questions like "Does she have a boyfriend, husband or is she divorced?" And others like, "Tantaros or Guilfoyle - who's the hotter Fox brunette?"
"Oh my God," she says, taking a long pause.
The point in bringing it all up is not to rankle her, which it certainly seems to be doing. It's to determine whether, as a professional who happens to be a woman, she's peeved that - on the Internet at least - her accomplishments from a distinguished, multifaceted career are lagging grossly behind all the attention paid to her physical attractiveness.
The Claim That Ailes “Mined Broadcast Gold” By Hiring “Beautiful Women” Like Tantaros:
Granted, answering it is somewhat of a delicate balancing act for her. After all, FNC's mega-success is grounded on a nod to research indicating that while viewers indeed want fair and balanced news along with informative and timely analysis, they prefer it delivered by sublimely good-looking people - in particular, beautiful women.
Ailes wasn't the first to capitalize on the research that also indicates female viewers are just as captivated by attractive women as their male counterparts. But by institutionalizing the formula and assembling what's come to be known as that bevy of "Fox News Babes," he's mined broadcast gold. This is stating the obvious, of course, even if acknowledging it aloud at the network is frowned upon, say insiders.