Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros has made big headlines by suing the network for sexual harassment. But while that case has played out in the public eye, she has also been fighting a quiet legal battle with her ghostwriter.
Michael Malice, a frequent Fox News commentator, filed a federal suit against Tantaros in October 2016, claiming that she failed to pay him for his work authoring her book, “Tied Up in Knots.” The suit has remained under seal since then due to a confidentiality agreement, but U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest recently ordered the case unsealed.
Malice, whose legal name is Michael Krechmer, alleges that Tantaros agreed to pay him $150,000 to write the book. At the time, they entered into a confidentiality agreement. Malice contends that Tantaros was afraid that her publisher, Harper Collins, might cancel the book if her editor discovered that she was not writing it herself.
The book was published in April 2016, and Malice was credited in the acknowledgements as the book’s “editor.” As of last October, Malice alleges that he had been paid only $30,000.
Malice filed suit and is seeking to claim the copyright to the book, which argues that feminism has undermined women in relationships and in the workplace. Tantaros has since fought to keep the lawsuit under seal, arguing that the confidentiality agreement is still in effect. Tantaros’ attorneys have also claimed her professional reputation as a journalist would be irreparably damaged by the revelation that she did not write her own book.
“Defendant argues that, as a well-known television journalist, her credibility is her trade, and if plaintiff’s role in helping defendant write the Book was revealed it would severely undermine her credibility in the eyes of her colleagues, fans, publisher, and the wider news-media world,” Forrest wrote in her ruling unsealing the case. “A possibility of future adverse impact on employment or the celebrity status of a party is not a ‘higher value’ sufficient to overcome the presumption of access to judicial documents.”
It appears from the judge’s ruling that Tantaros’ attorney, Judd Burstein, has maintained that Malice’s lawsuit is part of Fox News’ litigation strategy in defending against the sexual harassment allegations filed by Tantaros. In a footnote, the judge says she is troubled that a “third party” has sought information about the lawsuit while it was under seal, and that the third party was involved in “unrelated litigation” with Tantaros. (Tantaros has filed three cases against Fox News and its employees in state and federal court, but is not currently a party to any other litigation.) The judge suggests that Malice’s attorneys may have disclosed information about the sealed case to the third party.