The XX Factor

Fox News “Operates Like a Sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like Cult,” Says New Lawsuit

Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros is the latest to claim harassment and retaliation at the network.

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

The changing of the guard at Fox News—where founding chairman Roger Ailes resigned last month after a former anchor accused him of sexual harassment, and of retaliating when she refused his advances—has not ended the ongoing scandal.

On Monday, former host Andrea Tantaros became the latest high-profile woman in the network’s orbit to file a lawsuit alleging sexist discrimination at Fox. Her suit names not only Ailes, but his successor Bill Shine, as well as famed host Bill O’Reilly, as parties to her humiliation. “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,” the suit claims.

As the New York Times reports, Tantaros has been at loggerheads with Fox for months. She was suspended with pay in April. The network claims that Tantaros knowingly violated her contract by publishing a book—called Tied Up in Knots: How Getting What They Wanted Has Made Women Miserable—without allowing the company to vet it first. Tantaros, on the other hand, says the suspension was payback for the noise she’d made within the network about sexual harassment. “She made multiple harassment and hostile-workplace complaints,” her lawyer, Judd Burstein, told New York magazine earlier this month. “All of a sudden, the book became this big issue.” Fox, for its part, has suggested that Tantaros “concocted sexual harassment claims to gain leverage in the contract dispute,” according to the Times.

According to Tantaros, the suspension was not the first time Ailes and other Fox executives had retaliated against her for resisting a culture that sexualized female hosts. Her suit alleges that she was repeatedly warned against wearing pants on-air because “Roger wants to see your legs,” and that O’Reilly, who she regarded as a mentor, made unwelcome overtures. Ailes called Tantaros into his office for private meetings in August and December 2014 and February 2015, the suit claims, and proceeded to speculate about the sexual habits of Fox coworkers, about Tantaros’ love life, and about how she would look in a bikini. When Tantaros refused to play along—declining, for example, to comply when Ailes told her to turn around “so I can get a good look at you”—her standing at the network suffered. In February 2015, she was demoted from her 5 p.m. slot on the show The Five to a role on the midday program Outnumbered.

Tantaros claims that she reported Ailes’ transgressions to Shine—then a senior news executive and a top aide to the chairman—in April 2015. She says she also asked him about a demeaning interview with the Fox publicity department that she suspected had been arranged to punish her; Shine told her, she says, to “let this one go.” Shine has said that Tantaros never complained to him about any harassment. Her suit, however, suggests that’s exactly what she’d expect him to say. “Ailes did not act alone,” it claims. “He 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.”