Fox News, Andrea Tantaros Disagree Over Whether Settlement Exists

Andrea Tantaros sues Fox News
Henry Lamb/Photowire/BEI/REX/Shutterstock

Over the course of the past few weeks, 21st Century Fox has offered millions of dollars in settlements to several women who alleged they met with sexual harassment while employed by the company’s Fox News Channel. Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News anchor, was awarded what is believed to be around $20 million. Whether another former anchor, Andrea Tantaros, is getting similar monies after she made allegations of sexual harassment and other mistreatment remains a matter of debate.

Fox News does not believe it has offered the former co-host of programs like “The Five” and “Outnumbered” any sort of settlement after she filed a lawsuit in August in the Supreme Court of State of New York, a person familiar with the matter said. The company is paying out her contract, which it believes ends as of August of 2017. And while Tantaros stands to collect a sum of around $800,000 over that time period, minus deductions, this person said that she may not appear on competing TV networks while she collects the money.

Her attorney, Judd Burstein, believes those details are inaccurate. “All that one can say is that they have been paying her,” he said. “However, they have not promised to do so, because Andrea did not agree to their settlement terms.”

“It is true that they are continuing to pay her, but that’s only because they don’t want to increase their potential liability for retaliation,” Burstein said.

Tantaros’ suit is one of  the lingering legal threads left from a controversy that the network and its parent would no doubt like to put to rest. Roger Ailes, the former leader of the network and architect of its popular and influential programming, was ousted in July in the wake of a lawsuit filed by Carlson alleging sexual harassment by the executive.

Fox News Channel offered in June to pay Tantaros the remainder of her $800,000 salary through August of this year along with $850,000 from August 2016 to August 2017, according to a release form reviewed by Variety. In exchange for accepting the terms, Tantaros would be barred from appearing on competing networks through February of next year, if she were willing to accept a reduced severance after that time. She would also have to agree not to sue Fox and various executives and anchors, including Bill Shine, recently named co-president of the network, and anchors  and contributors such as Bill O’Reilly, Greg Gutfeld, Melissa Francis and Kimberly Guilfoyle.

She seems not to have liked the terms. Tantaros in August filed a suit alleging senior executives at the network retaliated against her after she complained about being inappropriate remarks made to her by Roger Ailes, the former chairman and chief executive of the network. In the document, Tantaros alleged Ailes made demeaning remarks to her, such as “I bet you look good in a bikini,” and also asked inappropriate questions about her romantic life as well as the lives of other Fox News staffers. When Tarantos and her representatives complained to senior Fox News executives, the suit alleges, the anchor was first moved to the daytime program “Outnumbered’ from “The Five,” and was told to cease her complaints because it was likely she would not prevail. The suit seeks as much as $23 million, as well as $26 million in punitive damages and reimbursement of attorney fees.

At the root of the dispute is a book Tantaros published earlier this year called “Tied Up In Knots,” through Harper Collins, a unit of News Corp. a sister corporation that is, like 21st Century Fox, controlled by the Murdoch family. The anchor did not adhere to rules about approvals required for Fox News anchors to publish books, said the person familiar with the matter. When Fox News executives began to ask her questions about the book’s publication, this person said, it led to a clash between employee and employer.

Gretchen Carlson prevailed in her effort after filing suit in July charging that Ailes sexually harassed her, but Tantaros is meeting with resistance. Fox News executives have not been able to corroborate her allegations internally, according to the person familiar with the matter. Ailes has denied all charges leveled at him. He was ousted from Fox News after a number of former and current female employees and associates began to allege multiple anecdotes of being mistreated by him, including sexual harassment.