Former Fox Host Says Ailes and Bill O'Reilly Contributed to Network Being a 'Playboy Mansion-Like Cult'


As women continue to step forward with charges of sexual harassment against former Fox News head Roger Ailes, former network host Andrea Tantaros has filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court against top executives from the network. In her complaint, Tantaros alleges that Fox higher-ups punished her for complaints about Ailes’ behavior by demoting, and then removing her from the air. The suit describes persistent sexual harassment by Ailes and others—including Bill O’Reilly, who has been previously accused of similar behavior by others—and states that “Fox News masquerades as a defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny.”

Tantaros served as co-host on the Fox News show the “The Five” beginning in 2011. According to the New York Times, her lawsuit claims network executives warned her against wearing pants during broadcasts because “Roger wants to see your legs.” (Numerous other women have stated that Ailes demanded female hosts wear “your skirts short and your heels high.”) The complaint also alleges that after a 2014 meeting in which Tantaros refused to comply with Ailes’ request that she turn around “so I can get a good look at you,” she was bumped to a lower-rated show.

The rampant sexism Tantaros and others have described at the network was allegedly on full display during meetings in December 2014 and February 2015, when the former Fox host claims she was subjected to humiliating behaviors by Ailes and others. Per the Times report:

"In the February meeting, she said, Mr. Ailes talked about how she would look in a bikini, and accused her of ending a long-term relationship because she had been merely using the man. The episode brought her to tears, the lawsuit states. She said the sole interview arranged by the publicity department during that period was with a writer for a blog controlled by Fox, who asked about her breasts and if she was difficult to work with."

In response to her refusal to comply with Ailes’ multiple harassing requests, Tantaros claims she was humiliated on social media by “sock puppet accounts” set up by Fox News publicity department. She also alleges that when she complained about Ailes’ behavior to senior staffer Bill Shine (recently named network co-president), she was told Ailes is a “powerful man” and that she “need[ed] to let this one go.”

Shine has denied speaking to Tantaros about harassment charges against Ailes. Fox News has stated Tantaros fabricated the sexual harassment claims because of an ongoing contractual dispute over a book they say she wrote without first seeking network consent.

Ailes stepped down from his position as Fox News chairman CEO about a month ago in the face of numerous allegations of sexual misconduct by current and former female Fox staffers. According to the New York Times, the executive has since made a fairly seamless move to a position as adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. In addition to Gretchen Carlson, the Fox News personality whose lawsuit against Ailes first led to controversy, some 20 women have come forward with personal stories of harassment by the former network head honcho.

Tantaros' lawsuit also states, according to the Times, that “Ailes did not act alone.” Implicated as well is Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who the suit alleges made “unwanted advances” toward Tantaros.

“[Ailes] may have been the primary culprit, but his actions were condoned by his most senior lieutenants, who engaged in a concerted effort to silence Tantaros by threats, humiliation and retaliation,” the lawsuit states.

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