Fox News Harassment Scandal Heats Up As Apparent Smoking Gun Surfaces

Andrea Tantaros, far right, on the Outnumbered set in a happier time (image from Tantaros' Facebook)
Andrea Tantaros, far right, on the Outnumbered set in a happier time (image from Tantaros' Facebook)
Andrea Tantaros, far right, on the Outnumbered set in a happier time (image from Tantaros’ Facebook)

Believe it or not, the news that Fox News Channel founder Roger Ailes actively spied on other networks wasn’t the most outrageous news to emerge this week from the fair and balanced network’s festering harassment scandal. Not by a longshot. It turns out that one of Fox News’ highest-profile women was yanked off the air after daring to complain that Ailes harassed her. The manner in which this was done appears to be the strongest evidence yet that Fox News brass was well aware of Ailes’ debauchery and covered it up.

Andrea Tantaros has been one of the most prominent female personalities on Fox News since joining the network in 2010. You may know her as a charter member of “The Five” and one of the permanent co-hosts of “Outnumbered.” However, she hasn’t been on the air for much of the spring and summer. In late April, Fox News abruptly announced that “issues have arisen regarding Andrea’s contract,” forcing the network to take Tantaros off the air–essentially, a suspension with pay. She hasn’t appeared on camera for almost four months.

Well, Tantaros now says that Fox News is lying through its teeth. Tantaros’ lawyer, Judd Bernstein, told New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman that Ailes harassed her on numerous occasions between 2014 and 2016. Bernstein says that Ailes asked Tantaros to “twirl” so he could see her body, offered to hug her, suggested she must “really look good in a bikini,” and made a number of other advances and inappropriate comments.

In response, Bernstein says, Tantaros filed “multiple harassment and hostile-workplace complaints,” both formally and informally, with programming chief Bill Shine, programming senior vice president Suzanne Scott, and general counsel Dianne Brandi. Tantaros believes that she was yanked off “The Five” in February 2015 in retaliation for one of those complaints. According to Bernstein, when Tantaros made a formal complaint in April, Shine told her that “Roger is a very powerful man,” and she was wasting her time coming forward. After more complaints, Fox took her off the air.

Bernstein says that Tantaros is well aware she is breaching a confidentiality clause in her contract by speaking out. However, she decided to speak out because “the Murdochs have made it clear they want to clean up the place.” Remember, Ailes was forced to resign despite record ratings.

In response, Fox News claims that Tantaros was pulled off the air because she didn’t allow the network to vet her book, “Tied Up in Knots: How Getting What They Wanted Has Made Women Miserable.” Specifically, Fox News lawyers told Bernstein that they objected to the book’s cover, which shows Tantaros bound by ropes. But Politicus USA’s Sarah Jones discovered there’s a huge problem with that account. A segment of Tantaros promoting her book on the February 29 edition of “Outnumbered” is still available on Fox News’ video archive.

Just in case Fox News deletes it, here’s a screenshot.

(screenshot courtesy FoxNews.com)
(screenshot courtesy FoxNews.com)

According to Buzzfeed, when Fox News lawyers first expressed concerns about the book, Tantaros claimed that she had been a target for harassment from four of her male colleagues–though Ailes wasn’t named as an assailant at the time. Two sources at Fox News told Buzzfeed that the network investigated Tantaros’ claims, but dismissed them in April when Tantaros couldn’t give specific details about the lewd comments directed at her. Hogwash, Bernstein says. He claims that there was no investigation at all, and said that Fox News’ own records show evidence of “broader allegations” made by his client.

All the hyperbole aside, though, Fox News’ explanation for why Tantaros hasn’t been on the air doesn’t add up. If Fox News’ lawyers were so concerned about “Tied Up in Knots,” then why was a segment about that book still easily available on Fox News’ Website almost seven months later? I can only conclude that Fox News is trying to cover up an attempt to retaliate against Tantaros for reporting harassment–and isn’t doing a very good job of it. Such retaliation would be, at the very least, an egregious violation of parent company 21st Century Fox’s internal policies.

Seen in this context, this video amounts to a smoking gun.If Tantaros is telling the truth–and at this point, there’s every reason to believe that she is–then Shine, Scott, and Brandi should get the same treatment that Ailes got. That is, an ultimatum to resign or be fired. Only this time, no golden parachute.

To be sure, Tantaros has represented the worst of Fox News at times. But no one deserves to be the victim of retaliation for standing up to such outrageously debauched behavior, regardless of ideology. Let’s stand with Tantaros in her quest for justice. It will go a long way toward cleaning up what we now know to be a toxic waste dump.

Darrell is a 30-something graduate of the University of North Carolina who considers himself a journalist of the old school. An attempt to turn him into a member of the religious right in college only succeeded in turning him into the religious right's worst nightmare--a charismatic Christian who is an unapologetic liberal. His desire to stand up for those who have been scared into silence only increased when he survived an abusive three-year marriage. You may know him on Daily Kos as Christian Dem in NC. Follow him on Twitter @DarrellLucus or connect with him on Facebook. Click here to buy Darrell a Mello Yello.