This post has been updated to note that Brandi, Briganti and Scott are not merely Fox News vice presidents but are, in fact, executive vice presidents.

Fox News Channel's 37-page response to a lawsuit brought by Andrea Tantaros focuses largely on issues unrelated to the former host's sexual harassment claims. The network accuses Tantaros of writing an unauthorized book and contends the New York court where she filed the lawsuit is not the proper venue to resolve the dispute; Fox News says Tantaros is contractually obligated to seek arbitration.

But the portion that does deal with harassment is pretty interesting because it does something that would have been unthinkable a short time ago — it kind of throws Roger Ailes under the bus.

AD

Ailes, of course, was forced to resign as Fox News chairman last month after more than two dozen women accused him of sexual harassment, bolstering accusations leveled in a separate lawsuit brought by another former anchor, Gretchen Carlson. But the network and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, never actually admitted Ailes was guilty.

AD

The latest filing in the Tantaros case comes pretty darn close. Check out this passage:

Over the last few weeks, 21st Century Fox (Fox News's parent company) has made clear its commitment to providing a safe and dignified workplace at Fox News: by immediately launching an investigation in which women were encouraged to report their experiences under conditions of confidentiality, and by committing to make things right with those women who were not treated with the respect that they and every employee deserve. But Tantaros is not a victim; she is an opportunist.

Fox News does not mention Ailes by name and does not use the term "sexual harassment," but it acknowledges women "were not treated with ... respect" and references Ailes in the most thinly veiled way imaginable.

What's more, Fox News suggests Ailes's guilt as a way of buttressing its credibility in denying Tantaros's claim to have been harassed by other network personalities, including Bill O'Reilly and former  senator Scott Brown, an off-and-on contributor in recent years. Read between the lines, and Fox News's argument is this: We've proven that we take legitimate harassment charges seriously by pushing out Ailes, so you can believe us when we say Tantaros's allegations are false.

AD

Here it is worth noting an important difference between the Tantaros and Carlson lawsuits. Tantaros is suing multiple parties: Ailes, Fox News, Fox News Co-President Bill Shine and Fox News executive vice presidents Dianne Brandi, Irena Briganti and Suzanne Scott. Carlson is suing only Ailes. To the extent that Fox News can paint Carlson as authentic and contrast her with Tantaros, it can do so with seemingly little risk of damage to itself, since the network is not named in Carlson's suit.

It is also worth noting that the Fox News response to Tantaros covered only the network, Shine, Brandi, Briganti and Scott — the current employees. Ailes is on his own.

AD
AD