Former Fox News personality Andrea Tantaros claimed in a federal lawsuit Monday that executives at the network approved a systematic campaign of digital surveillance and harassment, hacking into her computer and phone devices and creating “sock puppet” fake news sites to discredit her after she filed a sexual harassment suit against former Fox News chief Roger Ailes and network stalwart Bill O’Reilly.
Tantaros sued Fox and Ailes in August, claiming the Fox News president and O’Reilly Factor host Bill O’Reilly had sexually harassed her. Tantaros’s suit came after former Fox News personality Gretchen Carlson filed her suit accusing Ailes of sexual harassment, which eventually led to Ailes’s ouster from the company. O’Reilly was dismissed last week from Fox News in the aftermath of a New York Times story that the company had paid out $13 million to settle sexual harassment claims by several women against the host over the years. Several O’Reilly Factor advertisers pulled their ads from the show after the Times article broke, adding to the pressure on the company to jettison the host.
Fox had called Tantaros an “opportunist” in filing her earlier suit, adding that she violated company policy by publishing a book without first obtaining permission and that her claims should be resolved in arbitration. A New York State Supreme Court judge agreed with Fox in February, moving the case to private arbitration where it currently resides.
In the meantime, Tantaros filed her most recent litigation in federal court in Manhattan Monday, claiming that after she had made her complaints about Ailes and O’Reilly known, Fox put in motion a campaign aimed at monitoring her every move and discrediting her.
According to the suit, Fox executives subjected Tantaros to illegal electronic surveillance and computer hacking, and “used that information to intimidate, terrorize, and crush her career through an endless stream of lewd, offensive, and career damaging social media posts, blog entries and commentary and high-profile fake media sites which Fox News (or its social influence contractors owned or controlled).”
Fox News vehemently denied the accusations.
“Fox News and its executives flatly deny that they conducted any electronic surveillance of Ms. Tantaros,” Fox News outside counsel Dechert, LLC said in a statement. “They have no knowledge of the anonymous or pseudonymous tweets described in her complaint. This lawsuit is a flimsy pretext to keep Ms. Tantaros and her sexual harassment claims in the public eye after the State Supreme Court directed her to bring them in arbitration.”
Tantaros claims Fox organized an elaborate campaign to discredit her and scare her into dropping the suit, using fake social media accounts – so-called sock puppets – to let her know they were keeping a close eye on her.
For example, in the suit Tantaros claims that in early June, after a close friend was bitten by a scorpion, one of those sock puppet accounts sent out a tweet with an Amazon.com advertisement for a 1957 movie The Black Scorpion. On another occasion, after Tantaros had spoken to her mother on the phone in June about the upcoming three-year anniversary of her brother’s death in August, another sock puppet account tweeted “Purple Memorial…. For Daniel Tantaros, R.I.P. Daniel….”
The suit stated there was no other reason for the account to tweet about an anniversary that was two months away except to upset Ms. Tantaros and to let her know she was being surveilled.