Fox News has petitioned a federal judge to toss out Andrea Tantaros’ second lawsuit against the cable network.
The 29-page legal memo also wants a fine imposed on Tantaros’ lawyer for filing what the FNC legal team claims is essentially a frivolous lawsuit designed to generate negative publicity. In the court filing, Fox also suggests that authorities should consider disciplinary action against her lawyer for potential ethics violations. It also wants Tantaros and her lawyer to reimburse the network for its legal fees.
Last month, Tantaros sued Fox News and several of its executives for allegedly hacking into her electronic devices and allegedly using sock puppet accounts on social media to cyberstalk her.
This was another salvo in the bitter legal dispute between the popular former Outnumbered co-host and her former employer.
In August 2016, she sued Fox News, the late former CEO Roger Ailes, and four other FNC defendants, claiming that the TV channel retaliated against her in the workplace for complaining to high-level executives there about alleged sexual harassment by Ailes.
In that complaint, Tantaros characterized the network as a “Playboy Mansion-like cult” and also leveled accusations of misbehavior at other Fox News personalities. Part of the retaliation allegedly came in the form of a demotion from the higher-rated The Five (which recently moved to prime time at 9 p.m. Eastern) to Outnumbered.
Ailes and Fox denied the allegations, and the channel insists that the suspension came because Tantaros failed to get pre-approval for a book manuscript and that Tantaros never lodged internal complaints about sexual harassment.
Tantaros has been off the air since late April 2016, which — setting aside the merits of the ongoing litigation — can’t be good for any media pundit’s career or brand, especially since she was a fan favorite. It also undoubtedly hindered the promotion for the book in question, Tied Up in Knots.
Through her lawyer, Tantaros is appealing a ruling by a New York state judge that sent the original case against Fox News to closed-door, private arbitration, as required by her employment contract, rather than open court.
As far as the second lawsuit is concerned, Fox claims that one of the sock puppet accounts in question is actually owned by a real person who has no connection to FNC. Fox is also asking the Manhattan court to order Tantaros to fold any further claims into the arbitration proceeding.
In the legal papers, the Fox News attorneys describe the federal complaint as outrageously and flagrantly false. “This sensational allegation, broadcast in bold-faced type, was made solely to generate negative headlines for, and inflict maximum damage on, Fox News.”
Tantaros’ lawyer Judd Burstein, however, “called the Fox News court filing ‘a frivolous motion’ and said it includes new information that will help prove Tantaros’s claims,” Bloomberg reported.
In a statement ot the LawNewz website, Burstein added that “I could not be happier about the strength of my case because Fox News has now handed me the smoking gun — evidence that they were electronically surveilling Ms. Tantaros’s telephone conversations as late as April 21, 2017. Worse still, they were listening in my privileged conversations with Ms. Tantaros.”
In April, Andrea Tantaros separately sued two former Fox News Channel colleagues, but not Fox itself, for defamation. In that lawsuit, Tantaros claims she was libeled in the form of a tweet sent out by a former Fox News contributor and that a Fox exec put the contributor up to it.
Fox News kept Andrea Tantaros on the payroll until October 2016, when she appeared on Good Morning America to discuss the sexual harassment accusations, which apparently violated a contractual confidentiality provision.
Update: Andrew Levander at Dechert LLP, which is representing Fox, provided the following statement on the matter.
“Mr. Burstein, who has already been chastised by the state court in this dispute, simply seeks to divert attention from his baseless federal complaint by misstating the facts. Our motion for sanctions, supported by indisputable sworn statements and documentary evidence as well as overwhelming judicial authority, speaks for itself.”
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