Former Fox News personality Andrea Tantaros challenged her former bosses and colleague Bill O’Reilly to submit to lie-detector tests in response to her allegations that she was the victim of sexual harassment while appearing on the network.
Tantaros, the former co-host of Fox’s “The Five” and “Outnumbered,” sued Fox and its former chairman, Roger Ailes, last week, claiming that harassment was widespread. Her complaint described the network as a “sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult.”
In an unusual ploy — one Tantaros acknowledged Monday was a bid to win public opinion — she issued a “lie-detector test challenge” to Ailes, O’Reilly and Fox co-president Bill Shine. She said she would submit to a polygraph test and answer questions posed by Fox’s attorneys if the three men and two other defendants would do the same with her attorney. The results from both sides would then be made public, she said.
Fox, which has denied Tantaros’s legal claims, did not respond to a request for comment about her proposal.
Fox on Monday asked the New York State Supreme Court, where Tantaros filed her suit last week, to move the dispute to private arbitration. The network argued in a court filing that Tantaros’s employment agreement requires that any dispute be referred to arbitration.
The network made the same argument last month in response to a sexual harassment suit filed by Gretchen Carlson, another former Fox host. Like Tantaros, Carlson said she was demoted by Ailes after she rebuffed his sexual advances. He has denied the claim.
In its filing, Fox also called Tantaros a “wannabe” victim who is using a claim of sexual harassment as a “smokescreen” for an unrelated dispute over publication of a book she wrote.
Fox said her contract required prior approval of the book — titled “Tied Up in Knots: How Getting What We Wanted Made Women Miserable” — and she was suspended because she didn’t seek permission. The network said she never complained about Ailes or sexual harassment during an internal investigation some months ago.
“Tantaros is not a victim; she is an opportunist” who is seeking to tarnish Fox and its current management, Fox said in its filing.
In addition to Ailes and Shine, Tantaros’s suit names Fox legal counsel Dianne Brandi and media relations chief Irena Briganti as defendants. It does not name O’Reilly, although Tantaros alleges in her suit that the host of “The O’Reilly Factor” made a number of suggestive comments to her, including inviting her to his beach house and telling her that he believed she had a “wild side.”
Tantaros’s lawyer, Judd Burstein, attacked Fox’s bid to move to arbitration. “If Mr. Shine and his minions are innocent, why do they want this dispute to be resolved in the shadows?” he said. “An innocent person would be so outraged that he or she would want public vindication.”
In its motion, Fox included statements defending a long list of Fox personalities whom Tantaros said Ailes had made disparaging comments about in conversations with her. But it included no statements in defense of O’Reilly.
In response to this omission, O’Reilly’s attorney, Fred Newman, said in an interview, “I don’t think you should read anything into it.” He added: “There is nothing to defend in Tantaros’s suit because Mr. O’Reilly is not a defendant. He is mentioned once in a 37-page complaint, and that mention is not worth defending because it is untrue.”
Attorneys for Ailes also asked the court on Monday to move Tantaros’ suit to arbitration. In a filing separate from Fox, Ailes’ legal team denied Tantaros’ allegations, including that he once commented on how she would look in a bikini. “If any defendants ever commented on how Ms. Tantaros looked, it likely was because Ms. Tantaros plastered pictures of herself in a bikini all over the internet (actually nearly nude), and many people at Fox News were shocked and perplexed by this,” the motion reads.