In New Lawsuit, Tantaros Claims Fox Illegally Surveilled And Hacked Her

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Former Fox News anchor Andrea Tantaros sued the network and a handful of its top executives Monday for allegedly carrying out a campaign of “illegal electronic surveillance and computer hacking” against her after she went public with claims of workplace sexual harassment and retaliation.

It is the second lawsuit Tantaros has filed against her former employer within the last year. The first lawsuit, involving her sexual harassment claims, was sent to arbitration, where it is pending.

In the new strongly worded complaint, filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, Tantaros’ lawyer accused Fox’s top-brass of “professional digital character-assassination.” They hacked her computer and cell phone, she alleged, and used an army of “sock puppet” social media accounts to subtly signal to her that she was being watched.

Tantaros alleged in the complaint:

As demonstrated below with accompanying exhibits, the Defendants in this case subjected Ms. Tantaros to illegal electronic surveillance and computer hacking, and used that information (including, on information and belief, privileged attorney-client communications) to intimidate, terroize, 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.

Ousted Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, Fox Co-President Bill Shine, Fox PR czar Irena Briganti, and Peter Snyder, head of a company called Disruptor Inc., are named as the defendants who allegedly collaborated to “emotionally torture” Tantaros, the lawsuit claims.

In one instance, she alleged she received a copy of her book “Tied Up In Knots” at her home address one day after receiving a message from a fan asking her to sign his copy. In another, she saw a tweet about her brother Daniel’s death the day after she spoke to her mother on the phone about plans to celebrate the third anniversary of his passing.

The complaint notes that journalists critical of Ailes and disloyal to Fox were surveilled and subjected to defamatory attacks in the past, and alleges that a forensic analysis of Tantaros’ computer showed surveillance viruses not typically found in mass malware.

According to her account, the harassment campaign began last summer when she sued Fox and its senior executives for pushing her out of the network and smearing her reputation after she complained about unwanted sexual advances by Ailes and recently fired anchor Bill O’Reilly. At the time, Fox accused Tantaros of kicking up a fuss to get publicity for her book.

Ailes and O’Reilly left the network with hefty payouts after mounting public pressure, but have strenuously denied the harassment allegations against them.

A New York Supreme Court Judge ruled in February that Tantaros’ initial suit would move to private arbitration, as Fox requested, because her claims were covered by the arbitration clause of her contract.

In a statement, Fox News’ outside counsel, Dechert, LLP, denied her latest allegations.

“Fox News and its executives flatly deny that they conducted any electronic surveillance of Ms. Tantaros,” the statement said. “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.”

Read the full complaint below:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
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