Andrea Tantaros, the former Fox News host suing the network for alleged sexual harassment by Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, claims in a new lawsuit that the network and its executives are using electronic surveillance and hacking techniques to spy on her.
In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in New York, Tantaros contends that she has been targeted by “digital weapons” that started when she was employed at Fox News and that continues “to this day.”
In the lawsuit, she claims that executives Bill Shine, co-president of Fox News, and Irena Briganti, Fox News executive, have retaliated against her “through illegal electronic surveillance,” the hacking of her personal computer, and the use of so-called “sock puppet” social media accounts to stalk her.
“Quite simply, Ms. Tantaros’ refusal to take the more than $1 million offered to her so that she would remain silent made her an existential threat to Fox News’ senior management,” the lawsuit states.
Her claims of sexual harassment, made in an August 2016 lawsuit, are currently in private arbitration. The defendants have denied her allegations.
Fox News’ outside counsel, Dechert LLP, said in a statement, “Fox News and its executives flatly deny that they conducted any electronic surveillance of Ms. Tantaros. They have no knowledge of the anonymous or pseudonymous tweets described in her complaint. This lawsuit is a flimsy pretext to keep Ms. Tantaros and her sexual harassment claims in the public eye after the State Supreme Court directed her to bring them in arbitration.”
Ailes resigned from Fox News in July in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. O’Reilly left the network last week.
Meanwhile, in a show of support, on Monday, Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox and chairman and CEO of Fox News, took Shine and co-president Jack Abernethy to lunch at high-profile restaurant Marea in New York.
|Rupert Murdoch, second from left, Fox News co-presidents Jack Abernethy, second from right, and Bill Shine (right). The man on the left is unidentified. Photo credit: Mark Lennihan/Associated Press|
In addition to Fox News, Ailes, Shine, and Briganti, Tantaros’ latest lawsuit also names as defendants Peter A. Snyder, a social media strategist, and his company, Disruptor Inc.
Tantaros claims that her emails and telephone conversations were surveilled, saying that was revealed through social media posts.
Her lawsuits cites several examples. In early June of 2016, she had been talking on the phone with a close friend who had been bitten by a poisonous scorpion. Then, one of the “sock puppet” accounts sent a tweet with an advertisement for a DVD of the 1957 movie “The Black Scorpion.”
On June 19, 2016, the day after Tantaros and her mother spoke about plans for the third anniversary of the death of her brother, one of the sock puppet accounts sent the tweet: “Purple Memorial … for Daniel Tantaros, R.I.P. Daniel..”
In another instance she cited, she was talking to her other brother’s children during a trip to Disneyland, when there was a tweet from an account “showing two children being hugged by Micky [sic] Mouse with the message: ‘Mickey Mouse and ‘new friends’…”
Her lawsuit claims to have “overwhelming evidence” of the involvement of Fox News operatives in the surveillance of her email and phone calls and then the use of “sock puppet” social media accounts to “cryptically let her know she was under surveillance.”
It claims that a forensic examination of her laptop showed that a “Fox News operative” broke into her personal computer and planted “key-logging and other surveillance software on it.”
“Forensics will show Ms. Tantaros’s computer anomalies are not malware of known viruses that could have been found or transmitted through ‘general surfing’ of the Internet, but ‘fingerprints’ that could only have been left by third-party (highly illegal) access,” the lawsuit states.