Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and retaliation against Fox News, former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, and top executives at the network, including the man who replaced Ailes as one of the heads of Fox News. Tantaros is the most recent of several people to accuse high-level Fox News executives and personalities of perpetuating and enabling sexual harassment in the workplace.
Tantaros’ complaint, filed on August 22, alleges that her “tenure at Fox News devolved into a nightmare of sexual harassment by Ailes, Fox News’s then-President, and others, followed by retaliation by Ailes and others despite multiple ongoing complaints by Tantaros”:
Plaintiff Andrea Tantaros, by her attorneys, Judd Burstein, P.C., complaining of the Defendants herein, as and for her Complaint, alleges:
2. ... 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.
3. In recent months, other women have finally, laudably come forward to reveal Defendant Roger Ailes (“Ailes”) as the sexual predator that he is. However this Complaint is not just about Ailes; it also gives life to the saying that ‘the fish stinks from the head.’ For 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 “concerted effort to silence Tantaros” is nothing new regarding allegations of sexual harassment at Fox News. According to a 2004 sexual harassment suit filed against Fox host Bill O’Reilly, O’Reilly allegedly threatened a former employee, saying, “If any woman ever breathed a word I’ll make her pay so dearly that she’ll wish she’d never been born,” and adding, “If you cross FOX NEWS CHANNEL, it’s not just me, it’s [FOX President] Roger Ailes who will go after you.” In another instance in 2005, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court against News Corp.’s Fox News Network LLC” contending that “Joe Chillemi, a Fox vice president who supervised its advertising and promotions departments, sexually harassed and subjected” Kim Weiler, a former Fox employee, and “other women to a hostile work environment, routinely using obscenities and vulgarities to describe women or their body parts.” According to Weiler’s complaint, “Fox retaliated against Weiler for complaining about discrimination.” After settling the EEOC complaint, Fox News agreed not to enable sexual harassment in the workplace by retaliating against victims.
According to Tantaros’ new complaint, after she reported the sexual harrasment, “Ailes initially retaliated against Tantaros in a host of ways,” such as “crafting and placing insulting stories about Tantaros” on websites, and “arranging for, and giving, Tantaros permission to participate” in an interview in which the interviewer “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 also names as a defendant Bill Shine, who was named a co-president of Fox News by Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, after Ailes’ resignation. According to the complaint, when Tantaros met with Shine seeking “relief from Ailes’s sexual harassment and [Irena] Briganti’s retaliatory media vendetta against her," Shine “told Tantaros that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man’ and that Tantaros ‘needed to let this one go.’”
Tantaros’ complaint highlights an apparent larger and pervasive problem throughout Fox News Channel: a workplace culture that reportedly encourages inappropriate behavior and ensures such behavior will be ignored or even covered up. If these reports are accurate, simply removing Roger Ailes from his position as president does not address the ongoing “effort[s] to silence” reports of illegal sexual harassment in the workplace by other Fox News executives and senior staff.