Former Fox News anchor Andrea Tantaros has filed a second lawsuit against the network, claiming that former CEO Roger Ailes, current co-president Bill Shine, and other top executives spied on private communications and authorized the creation of fake online social media accounts to intimidate her after she complained that Ailes had sexually harassed her.
In the lawsuit, Tantaros likens the surveillance activities to a plot from Homeland’s “Sock Puppets” episode and claims that it began in retaliation of her initial sexual harassment suit against the network, which is currently in arbitration. She also asserted that “these digital weapons are being used against the victims of sexual harassment” and “continued unabated” through April 2017.
The claims are staggering, though not without precedent for those who have been critical of the network and its former CEO Roger Ailes. Tantaros alleges that after she first complained about Ailes’s alleged sexual harassment in 2015, Fox News created “sockpuppet” Twitter accounts—fake accounts created by third party companies to manipulate online conversations—to “cryptically let her know that she was under surveillance.” She also claims that some of the accounts used private information obtained by a Fox News operative, who had installed key-logging “and other surveillance software” on her personal computer.
Examples of this include receiving a tweet in June 2016 for an ad for the DVD of 1957 film The Black Scorpion after one of her friends was hospitalized due to a scorpion bite. That same month, one day after she and her mother had spoken about the death of her brother Daniel on the phone, she received a tweet about Daniel’s death. Daniel died in August 2013, the lawsuit notes, claiming the timing of the tweet “was designed” to upset Tantaros and make her paranoid. In July, after a friend in the military told her his unit was adopting a dog named “Egypt,” she received a tweet with a picture of a tour company named “Egypt Tours and Travel.”
She also claims that some of the tweets were deleted days before she filed her complaint in April 2017:
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Judd Burstein, Tantaros’ lawyer, called it “cyberstalking on steroids.” He told NPR that Fox News “harassed her through sock-puppet social media accounts which conveyed the illegal fruits of their electronic surveillance of her. It was in essence two crimes committed at the same time.”
As they did with her last lawsuit, Fox News released a statement saying executives “flatly deny” the claims, calling them 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.”