David Folkenflik

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  • Lawsuit: Former Fox Host Had Digital Devices “Spied On” By Fox After Reporting Sexual Harassment  

    Andrea Tantaros Has Sued Fox News For Spying On Her Private Communications “As Part Of A Campaign Of Intimidation”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    According to NPR’s David Folkenflik, Andrea Tantaros, former Fox News host and plaintiff in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the network and its former CEO Roger Ailes, has presented a new lawsuit against the network. The new lawsuit, according to Folkenflik, says the network arranged “to have her private communications spied on as part of a campaign of intimidation” that involved Twitter “sock puppet” accounts tweeting the contents of her private conversations after she reported sexual harassment incidents at Fox News.

    As reported by NPR, Tantaros’ lawsuit says that “Fox News executives including co-President Bill Shine orchestrated the use of material gathered by electronic eavesdropping that was fed to Twitter accounts acting on the network's behalf.” According to multiple articles, Shine has reportedly participated in retaliation campaigns against women who have reported sexual harassment within the network and has “pushed women into confidential mediation, signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid.”

    This is not the first time Fox has been accused of spying on the women who report sexual harassment: in 2004, the network paid private investigator and former network contributor Bo Dietl “to dig up information” about former producer Andrea Mackris, who reported sexual harassment from now-ousted Fox host Bill O’Reilly. Other claims in the lawsuit seem to corroborate previous reporting, such as Folkenflik’s reporting on Fox’s past use of online “sock-puppet accounts” to spread misinformation and attack perceived rivals, as well as New York magazine’s reporting by Gabriel Sherman detailing the use of a “black room” used to “conduct PR and surveillance campaigns against people [Roger Ailes] targeted, both inside and outside the company." 

    It’s also not the first time a company owned by Murdoch has been accused of hacking or spying. Fox News allegedly sought through “legally questionable means” the private communications of Media Matters senior reporter Joe Strupp, who had written articles citing “anonymous Fox sources.” 

    The incidents are also consistent with the Murdochs’ -- whose company 21st Century Fox controls Fox News -- shoddy journalistic practices involving hacking. In 2011, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp was involved in a phone hacking scandal that had them face legal consequences. As explained by NPR’s Folkenflik, “a bribery and hacking scandal at their London tabloids led to the closing of a newspaper, the criminal conviction of a former editor in chief, millions of dollars in settlements and the loss of a potential $11 billion takeover of a big British broadcaster called Sky.” In yet another example, News America Marketing, a division of News Corp., “illicitly accessed its competitor’s password-protected website,” while the two companies were reportedly “at war.” Tantaros’ lawsuit is just the latest allegation of misdeeds against Fox News. From David Folkenflik’s April 24 NPR article:

    A new lawsuit filed Monday by a suspended Fox News host accuses the network and senior executives of arranging to have her private communications spied on as part of a campaign of intimidation.

    The host, Andrea Tantaros, alleged in a previous lawsuit that she had been sexually harassed by former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes and former top-rated Fox News host Bill O'Reilly. That suit has been stayed while her complaints against the network are being heard in binding private arbitration. All defendants, through their own representatives or through Fox's parent company, 21st Century Fox, vehemently denied Tantaros' initial allegations.

    In Monday's federal lawsuit, Tantaros alleges that Fox News executives including co-President Bill Shine orchestrated the use of material gathered by electronic eavesdropping that was fed to Twitter accounts acting on the network's behalf. Ensuing tweets, she says, reflected knowledge of details of intimate conversations and exchanges with family members and friends. Tantaros alleges this was done to try to undermine her resolve in challenging the network on sexual harassment.

    [...]

    The case appears to build on a recent report by Salon's Matthew Sheffield. He reported that Fox News under Ailes allegedly paid for "sock puppet" accounts online to promote his private agendas, and also covertly supported the development of blogs that sexualized the network's female hosts and anchors. Tantaros' new suit names, among others, the head of a digital media consulting company who had a prominent role in Sheffield's account.

    [...]

    The suit alleges a rise in offensive material on social media accounts directed toward Tantaros in early 2015, when she says she first notified Shine and other Fox News executives that Ailes had harassed her. Then in May 2016, according to the complaint, several Twitter accounts started to post material suggesting direct knowledge of her conversations.

    [...]

    The phrase "hacking" carries particular resonance for the Murdoch family, which controls Fox News. In 2011, a bribery and hacking scandal at their London tabloids led to the closing of a newspaper, the criminal conviction of a former editor in chief, millions of dollars in settlements and the loss of a potential $11 billion takeover of a big British broadcaster called Sky. The Murdochs are now back in front of a British regulator, once again attempting to take over the 60 percent of Sky they do not already control.

  • Journalists Call On Debate Moderators To Fact-Check Candidates

    Journalists: Debate Moderators Should “Be Well-Prepared Enough To Assert The Truth In Real Time”

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Prior to the first presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump, journalists are advising the debate moderators to “Be well-prepared enough to assert the truth in real time,” and arguing that a moderator should not “abdicate” their “role as a truth-seeker and a journalist” because moderators “play a constructive and vital role” in presidential debates.

  • CNN Explores Implications Of Carlson Sexual Harassment Suit, Fox Merely Repeats Ailes' Own Defense (Again)

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Cable news giants Fox News and CNN displayed markedly different approaches to the bombshell allegations of sexual harassment brought by former Fox host Gretchen Carlson against Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. While CNN began investigating the claims made by Carlson and other women previously employed by Fox, the network itself simply reiterated Ailes’ own self-defense before launching a predictable campaign to discredit his accusers.

    On July 6, Carlson announced a “sexual harassment/retaliation lawsuit” against Ailes. Carlson claims that Ailes refused to renew her contract after she rebuffed multiple unwanted sexual advances from him over several years. Ailes is notorious for his sexist behavior and vulgar treatment of women at the network, and six more current and former Fox employees have reportedly contacted Carlson’s law firm alleging they were also sexually harassed by Ailes.

    On July 10, CNN’s Reliable Sources devoted the first half of the hour-long program to discussing the lawsuit and its implications for the future of Ailes and Fox News. Host Brian Stelter interviewed New York magazine correspondent Gabriel Sherman, author of the 2014 Fox exposé The Loudest Voice In The Room, about harassment allegations he uncovered while researching for his book, as well as the veracity of six new allegations against Ailes, which Sherman contended “fit a pattern of behavior” from the Fox News chief. Sherman also predicted that “Fox News’ PR machine” will work to “discredit” Carlson and any other accusers for Ailes, as they have in the past.

    Stelter also hosted NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik to discuss how News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, are responding to the allegations against Ailes “a little differently” than they have with prior harassment claims against Fox personalities. Folkenflik noted that the Murdochs “have not denied reports that they are hiring outside counsel” to handle the suit, as opposed to past cases involving Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and New York Post editor-in-chief Col Allan, where “they did not appoint an outside counsel” to deal with the complaints. Folkenflik concluded that this move may be tied to “the Murdoch sons' desire for their company to be truly a 21st century company, as opposed to run with the mores of the Don Draper era.”

    Meanwhile, on Fox News’ MediaBuzz, host Howard Kurtz mentioned his former colleague’s lawsuit in a brief, three-minute segment devoted to defending Ailes and attacking Carlson. Kurtz simply read Ailes’ personal statement in response to the lawsuit (as Fox News anchor Shepard Smith already had three days prior), mentioned that Ailes tried to move the suit into internal arbitration, and attacked Gretchen Carlson’s ratings as the real excuse for her termination. Kurtz pointedly refused to cover the story beyond that, dismissing other outlets’ coverage as simply “quoting anonymous sources” in a veiled shot at CNN and New York magazine. 

    Kurtz was the first Fox News reporter to come to Ailes’ defense against the harassment allegations made by Carlson. In the past, Kurtz has attacked Hillary Clinton for acknowledging media treatment that was “petty, sensationalist, often unfair and sometimes mean,” and he defended Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) when the then presidential candidate mocked and shushed CNBC’s Kelly Evans during a critical line of questioning in which he told her to “calm down.” In addition to his long track record of excusing sexist and bullying behavior toward women in the media, Kurtz has his own history of boorish behavior toward women.

  • Media Highlight How GOP "Carping" Secured Hugh Hewitt's CNN Debate Moderator Gig

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Media outlets have called out CNN for selecting conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt as a moderator of the December 15 Republican primary debate, noting that the inclusion of this "highly [...] partisan" conservative media figure is the result of Republican Party "carping." The Republican National Committee (RNC) has pressured networks to include conservative media figures as debate moderators, a move received with criticism from former debate moderators and network executives.