Fox seeks dismissal of Andrea Tantaros suit as ‘Hannity’ loses advertiser
On the same day, Fox News asked a federal court to toss out a suit brought by former host Andrea Tantaros, the network has lost what is thought to be its first advertiser on Sean Hannity’s show.
Fox News charged that a suit filed April 24 by attorney Judd Burstein on behalf of Tantaros against the network contained allegations that “are not just false, they are outrageously and flagrantly so,” the company said in a motion filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Tantaros alleges Fox News used electronic surveillance to “emotionally torture” her, and that it hacked her computer for emails and used Twitter to cyber stalk her, all after she filed a sexual harassment suit in August 2016. That came one month after another former Fox News host, Gretchen Carlson, sued former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. She claimed he opted not to renew her contract after she refused to sleep with him.
Ailes, who died last week at the age of 77, had denied the allegations and left the company two weeks after Carlson filed her suit with a $40 million severance package. In September 2016, 21st Century Fox settled the case, agreeing to pay Carlson $20 million.
Since then, Fox has endured the departure and dismissal of many key employees — and growing legal challenges. Those challenges include the April 19 dismissal of star host Bill O’Reilly after reports of harassment allegations against him and a growing advertiser boycott.
One of the supporters of that boycott, liberal activist group Media Matters on Tuesday posted a list of companies that advertise on Hannity’s show, which airs at 10 p.m. ET on Fox News. The Fox News Channel star has done stories about the case of Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich, who police say they think was murdered in 2016 in a random robbery attempt in Washington.
Hannity has said he doesn’t believe Rich was killed as part of a robbery attempt. But Fox News on Tuesday removed from its website a speculative story about Rich suggesting a connection to Wikileaks and its leaks of DNC emails during last year’s political campaign, saying it “was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.”
Hannity on Wednesday tweeted “Mediamatters is hoping advertisers will give into the pressure and they will silence freedom of speech” and, on the Rich story, “Not giving up at all. I’m working harder than ever to get to the truth the family wants and deserves. Stay tuned.”
But also Wednesday….. Cars.com, an advertiser on the Hannity show, released a statement saying it had suspended its advertising on the show……!
“The fact that we advertise on a particular program doesn’t mean that we agree or disagree, or support or oppose the content.” the statement said. “We don’t have the ability to influence content at the time we make our advertising purchase. In this case, we’ve been watching closely and have recently made the decision to pull our advertising from Hannity.”
In its court filing Wednesday, Fox News says that Tantaros’ allegations in her suit “read like the plot of a television drama … But pleadings in federal court are not supposed to be works of fiction; they must be grounded in fact.”
Fox News charges the Tantaros case does not include evidence of any computer surveillance viruses “linked to Fox News” or other proof of “its delusional hacking conspiracy.” Tweets cited in Tantaros’ complaint include “the friendly outpourings of a real person who considers himself a fan of Tantaros” and no others that “imply access to any of Tantaros’ private information.”
Burstein made “this sensational allegation … solely to generate negative headlines for, and inflict maximum damage on, Fox News,” the network charges.
The attorney’s “true intention,” Fox News charges, was “to pressure Fox News to accede to Tantaros’ extortionate settlement demands.”
In addition to monetary award to cover legal fees, Fox News asks the court to dismiss the April 24 suit, refer Burstein to disciplinary authorities, and prevent Tantaros from filing additional claims against the network outside of arbitration.
A judge in February sent to arbitration Tantaros’ initial harassment suit against Fox News, Ailes and other executives, in which she alleged the news network “operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny.”
“About that initial suit, Fox said that Tantaros had been suspended for breaching her contract by publishing a book without company approval and that she never complained about Ailes in an internal probe of her claims.”
In a statement, Burstein said Fox’s filing amounts to “The smoking gun” for Tantaros’ own suit “And are attempting to bully Ms. Tantaros by filing a frivolous sanctions motion.”