The lawyer for former Fox News anchor Andrea Tantaros argued in federal court April 24 that her client had been the victim of "illegal electronic surveillance" in an attempt to sully her character. Tantaros filed a sexual harassment suit against Fox News in August 2016.
According to court documents obtained by Ars Technica, Tantaros is alleging that Fox News was behind a series of "digital character-assassination" attempts that included creating fake social media accounts to send cryptic and threatening messages, using information obtained from her hacked email account and monitored telephone calls.
The court documents also make clear that the current lawsuit is no longer regarding the sexual harassment suit filed against Ailes and fellow Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly, which is now being settled by a private arbitrator. The focus of current litigation is the perceived illegalities of tracking and surveilling Tantaros after her departure from Fox News.
Tantaros' original sexual harassment suit against Ailes was filed in 2016 after she was fired. Tantaros' suit was based on claims of workplace misconduct and an inappropriate male-centric culture.
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According to court documents obtained by Salon, Tantaros rebuffed Ailes' advances and was punished for doing so. Ailes removed Tantaros from her anchor role on the popular weekday evening show "The Five" and reassigned her to a noon show called "Outnumbered."
Tantaros alleges the digital harassment began after she refused advances from Ailes and O'Reilly during her tenure at Fox and escalated after she was fired. Court documents describe a series of "sockpuppet accounts" on Twitter, created by a covert group working for Ailes, that used personal information obtained from monitored phone calls and emails to intimidate Tantaros.
"One of Ms. Tantaros's close friends was hospitalized, following a bite from a poisonous scorpion, and she had numerous telephone calls with her friend and others about his hospitalization," read court documents.
"Out of the blue, one of Defendants' sockpuppet accounts sent a Tweet with a purported Amazon.com advertisement for a DVD of a 1957 movie entitled 'The Black Scorpion.'"
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Tantaros also communicated with a military friend stationed in Egypt, and she would occasionally receive social media messages with pictures of pyramids and other identifiers. She also spoke about a trip to Disneyland with her brother's children over the phone, and later Tantaros received photos of a Mickey and Minnie Mouse hugging two children.
Court documents show the social media messages were meant to both "upset Tantaros" and to ensure that she knew she was being surveilled. The suit alleges that Tantaros has suffered "severe emotional distress" as a result of the harassment, which has required medical treatment and medication.