Fox News’ senior executives have said they were unaware of sexual-harassment allegations against Roger Ailes before former anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against him in July. But those claims are now being challenged by Fox host Andrea Tantaros, who says that she complained multiple times to senior Fox executives in 2015 about Ailes’s inappropriate sexual behavior toward her. Tantaros says that, after she came forward, she was first demoted and eventually taken off the air in April 2016. Fox continues to pay her.
Through her lawyer, Judd Burstein, Tantaros says that both she and her agent told Fox executive vice-president Bill Shine, senior vice-president Suzanne Scott, and general counsel Dianne Brandi about episodes of Ailes’s alleged harassment. “She made multiple harassment and hostile-workplace complaints,” Burstein says. As far as Tantaros knows, Fox executives never investigated her complaints, Burstein says; instead, they claim, Fox sidelined her. “I believe it’s retaliatory,” says Burstein.
Fox’s attorneys dispute this. The network says Tantaros was suspended with pay because she violated company policy by not allowing Fox to vet her 2016 book, Tied Up in Knots: How Getting What They Wanted Has Made Women Miserable. Fox attorneys told Burstein the network was embarrassed by her book’s cover, which depicts Tantaros bound by ropes.
According to Tantaros’s account, Ailes began harassing her on August 12, 2014. During a meeting in Ailes’s office, Ailes allegedly asked Tantaros to do “the twirl” so he could see her figure. She refused. Then, in mid-December of that year, Ailes made another advance, Burstein says. “Ailes asked her to turn around, and then he said, ‘Come over here so I can give you a hug.’” Tantaros rebuffed the advance, Burstein says.
In February 2015, Tantaros was pulled off the 5 p.m. program The Five and demoted to working full-time on the midday show Outnumbered. In February 2015, according to Burstein, Ailes allegedly harassed Tantaros again in his office, asking about her workout routine because her body “looked good” and mentioning that she must “really look good in a bikini.”
On April 30, 2015, Tantaros filed a formal workplace harassment complaint about Ailes to Shine, Burstein says. The following day, Burstein says, Tantaros met with Shine to further discuss her harassment claims. Shine allegedly told her, “Roger is a very powerful man,” and that she “should not fight this.”
In August, her agent spoke with Brandi about the episode; according to the agent, Brandi said she would look into the matter but did not follow up.
After making more complaints to Shine and Scott over the course of the next year, Tantaros was suspended from the network in April 2016. “All of a sudden, the book became this big issue,” Burstein says.
A few weeks before she was suspended, Tantaros hired Burstein, an aggressive litigator who has history battling Fox, to negotiate the dispute over her book. Burstein had negotiated a multi-million-dollar severance package in 2013 for Brian Lewis, Ailes’s then-communications chief, who was fired by Ailes after he accused Lewis of being a source for the Ailes biography I was writing at the time.
Burstein says Tantaros, who is still employed by Fox, knows she is taking a risk in violating her contract’s confidentiality clause. She’s telling her story now, he says, because “she doesn’t have the same fear of being attacked by the Fox PR machine, and the Murdochs have made it clear they want to clean up the place.”
Fox did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and other sources have questioned Tantaros’s account. BuzzFeed reported that Tantaros did accuse at least four people, including “two on-air contributors, a correspondent, and a host,” of inappropriate behavior, but never made a complaint against Ailes.
This post has been updated.