Shortly after ex-CEO Roger Ailes was given the boot last summer over multiple sexual-harassment allegations against him, Tantaros filed her own lawsuit (currently in private arbitration) claiming Ailes (and Bill O’Reilly) had acted inappropriately towards her, and that four top executives retaliated against her when she complained.
In this latest suit, filed Monday in New York federal court, Tantaros names Ailes, Fox News co-president Bill Shine, the network’s top flack Irena Briganti, and Fox-aligned social-media operative Peter A. Snyder as having surveilled her phone and email communications.
The result, she says, was using information obtained from her private conversations to “intimidate, terrorize, and crush her through an endless stream of lewd, offensive, and career-damaging social media posts, blog entries and commentary.”
The activity began, she alleges, before she ever came forward to accuse Ailes, and continued up until now—months after both she and Ailes departed Fox News.
“On information and belief,” the suit claims, a Fox News operative hacked Tantaros’s personal computer and planted keylogging and surveillance software on it. A forensic examination purportedly demonstrates that her laptop contained malware that could only have been transmitted through third-party, illegal access.
The lawsuit centers largely around social-media guru Snyder, the former CEO of New Media Strategies and now chief of angel-investment firm Disruptor Capital, who Tantaros claims created for Fox News a series of Twitter “sockpuppet” accounts and fake websites to cyberstalk her.
Tantaros claims that in 2013, while staying at Snyder’s home in Nantucket (she is friends with his wife), he revealed to her that Ailes will give him specific instructions on whom he should target using various internet trolling methods. Tantaros includes in the lawsuit a series of emails forward to her from Snyder showing his direct communications with Fox exec Bill Shine on matters related to the network’s public perception.
Based upon that, Tantaros believes that an alleged sockpuppet Twitter account, @DanielWayneBlo1, was created by Snyder for express purpose of harassing her and signaled to her that she was under their surveillance.
The account allegedly tweeted at Tantaros asking her to sign a copy of her 2016 book Tied Up in Knots, and when the book arrived to her home address several days later, she became concerned about how such an account—supposedly run by a “transportation manager” from Gainesville, Florida—could have known where she lived.
Thereafter, Tantaros she began noticing tweets that subtly coincided with private conversations she’d had on email or phone.
In one June 2016 phone conversation, Tantaros discussed visiting Charleston, South Carolina, with a friend. The next day, the suit notes, the account tweeted an image of a tree with the caption: “Angel Oak Charleston, S.C.” That same month she talked to a friend on the phone about arranging for her brother to ride in the back seat of a Blue Angel fighter jet, Tantaros claims. The next day, the Twitter account posted a picture of the Blue Angels squadron.
Also in June 2016, the day after she discussed with her mother plans for the August anniversary of her other brother’s death, the Twitter account posted an image with the caption “Purple Memorial… for Daniel Tantaros, R.I.P. Daniel…”
One day after she spoke with her brother’s children about their visit to Disneyland, Block tweeted an image of two children posing with Mickey Mouse, captioned: “Mickey Mouse and ‘new friends’...” In another instance, the Twitter account posted artwork with the phrase “Be strong and courageous,” which Tantaros claims she and her mother “almost always” say to each other at the conclusion of a phone conversation.
Tantaros and her lawyers note that just last week, within one day after news leaked that she intended to sue Snyder, the above tweets disappeared entirely from the Twitter account.
They believe that only through the discovery process will a money trail between Fox News and Snyder emerge, proving a coordinated surveillance and harassment campaign.
The network’s outside counsel, Dechert LLP, denied the allegations in a statement to the Huffington Post: “Fox News and its executives flatly deny that they conducted any electronic surveillance of Ms. Tantaros. They have no knowledge of the anonymous or pseudonymous tweets described in her complaint. This lawsuit is 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.”
Additionally, in a statement to The Daily Beast, Snyder’s counsel characterized Tantaros’s suit as “a sham and a shakedown.” The lawyer added: “As Ms. Tantaros and her lawyer are well aware, Pete Snyder and his company ceased doing any social media-related work for Fox News in 2012; Snyder sold his social media company long ago, and has had nothing whatsoever to do with what she is now alleging supposedly occurred to her over the past year. Pete and his wife have been nothing but friends to Ms. Tantaros over the years. In fact, the emails that Ms. Tantaros includes as exhibits in her claim are exchanges in which Mr. Snyder, upon Ms. Tantaros’ request, was promoting her with Fox News executives to expand her role. That she would stoop to dragging him into her fight with Fox News is therefore both shocking and disappointing. At her request, he helped her secure her position at Fox News and provided her professional advice throughout her career. Yet, now, Ms. Tantaros seems intent on using Mr. Snyder as a foil to try to make public allegations against Fox News in court, when a New York judge already ruled she is contractually barred from doing so and has to arbitrate her claims under strict confidentiality by contract. So whatever Ms. Tantaros’ claims against Fox News, she should leave Pete Snyder out of it.”